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Last Times: A Different Perspective

24th May 2023

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about last times lately. Most posts were not negative but still felt like a lament about things they could no longer do with their child or that their children were no longer doing. I found that feeling creeping into everyday things I do with my children.

Holding my sleeping one-year-old as I would lay her down in her crib, I found myself thinking, “one day, I won’t get to do this with you anymore.” I found that thought creeping into bedtime with my three-year-old as well (even though bedtime is currently a struggle). She even started her first tumbling class for potty-trained kids. I couldn’t help but have a moment with my husband saying, “it makes me sad.”

Why did it make me sad, though? Why couldn’t I simply celebrate this new chapter in her life? I realized that everything with your children is a bittersweet catch-22. There is a constant ending of old and beginning of new.

Yes, we experience that same ending-beginning cycle in our own lives every day, but it feels so different watching it as an outsider as a tiny person becomes more independent and learns to confidently navigate the world around them.

I stopped in the middle of that cycle of lovingly staring at a tiny calm, sleeping face and thinking “what if this is the last time…” and I changed my inner dialogue. I couldn’t help but feel drawn to the thought that, “when you’re ready, you’ll let me help you begin a new chapter.” Instead of “what if this is the last time,” think “what will I be missing if I only look back rather than look towards what will be,” and focus on guiding my children towards “what will be.”

A good friend of mine shared an important insight with me. “Raising children is more and more work until they turn four. After that, the kind of work changes.”

The reality is that our children never stop needing us. They just need us in different ways as they grow. My mother and I still take time to lay in bed together, eat ice cream, and watch Sex and the City.

I have to be continually conscious of the dialogue in my head around raising my children because it can spiral into only looking back and not forward at how exciting all the adventures we have yet to take will be. Now, at bedtime, instead of only me reading a book, first my three-year-old reads me a book and then it’s my turn to read to her. I hold her hand for nap time and bedtime and I will miss the feel of her little hand in mine, but I know that when she has finished writing this chapter in her life we will find another equally meaningful way to connect and bond.

Our children have to be the authors of their own lives. We just get to be the editors. That is something that deserves celebration not a forlorn look at the past.