My mom would always tell me it’s a blessing we don’t know what the future holds and that we are forced to live in the present. As a parent, I now know all too well that she’s right.
As a mom of four boys, including twins, I’m a member of a few Facebook twin groups. Today I read a mom’s simple and straightforward yet heartbreakingly beautiful post to one of these groups. She wrote, “I hope this is okay to post. Last night I nursed my babies for the last time. I thanked them both for sharing the experience with me then cried my eyes out. 13 months! I’m very proud I was able to do it for so long and happy they held hands every time!” The post was coupled with a very sweet photo of the tops of the heads of her babies holding hands against her nursing. Of course it made me cry. Cry for the last times that we as parents don’t know are often closer than we think and might even be upon us today.
I recently drove my twin sons to their last middle school dance. They hadn’t missed one their entire three years. It seemed like just yesterday they were carefully choosing their clothes for their first one. My husband and I were chaperones checking in kids who ranged in heights, builds and facial hair. Some looked 8-years-old while others I swore were 30 and had three kids waiting in the car.
I picked the boys up from the dance by myself while my husband stayed home with our 3 and 10-year-old. As I sat at each traffic light I really couldn’t believe that they were done and headed to high school dances next year. I walked in and saw them huddled on the dance floor with two of their buddies as the music was blaring. I made a point to take it all in and make a mental picture of the scene for my own memory. Sure, their younger brother would be starting middle school next year and attend these very same dances, but these were my first children and I’ll never get that moment back again.
The very next night our youngest son moved from his crib to a big boy bed. A very snazzy race car bed I found on Craigslist years before for his older brother. Because he’s a fourth child and had been haunting us to do this for a while, we just shoved the crib aside, put the bed in place, took a few photos of him in it, turned out the light and that was it. No preparation or fanfare. No, special “last night” photos of him in his crib because we didn’t know the previous night would be the last night. Life was marching on faster than we could plan or properly document for the family photo album.
A mom I’m friends with on Facebook posted about her firstborn’s first birthday party saying, “When you look at photos from the party and wish you checked the decorations before it started, stood in a different spot, wore a different outfit…” We often agonize over things like the big first birthday party but then life moves fast and you have a few more kids and before you know it you’re glad you even had a birthday party! You find yourself shoving a crib into a corner, making way for a bed and ending a chapter of your parenting life forever.
There are many days as a mom that I wish would just fly by because my own agenda is in the way. Staring down a long summer of togetherness makes me panic at times, but when I think in just four short years two of my boys will be headed to college, it gives me reason to pause. It didn’t seem that long ago that I had my last nursing session with them. For my fourth and final child, I took a few photos the last time I nursed him alone on my bed and cried.
It’s indeed a good thing we don’t know the future because I would be crying all the time in a sentimental heap. Maybe it was a blessing that I didn’t know the night the last of our children would ever sleep in that beautiful heirloom crib that my parents bought for us 15 years ago when we were on the brink of first time parenthood. I took photos of my husband assembling it as I stood there heavily pregnant with the twins and yesterday I took photos of him disassembling it for the last time. My hope is that someday other little boys and girls will occupy it and I’ll look back and smile, knowing how important it is to treasure today before it becomes tomorrow.