But over and over again, I realize that I'm still learning as I go.
Recently, I read something that stopped me in my parental tracks. The concepts of "lasts." That there will be a last time for things with my children. A last time they ask me for a piggy back ride to bed. A last time they automatically reach for my hand when we cross the street. A last time to rock them to bed. A last time they lisp "Wuv you thoo muth, Mommy!"
I think I had an inherent sense of this over the years, in the deep ache I get at the boys growing older. But I had never formed that emotion into a coherent statement.
There will be a last.
A last time they crawl into my bed at 2 am. A last middle of the night nursing. A last time they ask for a song to help them sleep.
I've spent so much time over the years documenting all the firsts. The first word. The first steps. The first day of school.
All those firsts are important. But in my eagerness to celebrate the firsts, I have forgotten to savor the lasts.
Common advice for parents is to enjoy every moment. This is often met with sceptism. How can you really enjoy every moment? Are you really even supposed to? Are we really supposed to enjoy the sleepless nights of the newborn phase, the red-faced meltdowns in grocery stores of the toddler phase, the rebellious attitude of the teenage phase? The noise, the mess, the fatigue of the whole thing?
I think the answer is yes.
Of course, there will be bad days. Days you don't want to every life thought again. And it's ok to feel that way.
But even on the worst days, I try to remember that this may be the last. The last time I'm the one they want to comfort them. The last time they ask me to play with them. The last time I have the opportunity to catch on video that ridiculous little dance they do during a tantrum.
Knowing that there are lasts doesn't have to emotionally devastate or add to the pressing guilt that I much too often carry. Instead, I see it as a chance to refocus and center my parenting. I can focus on the positives and skim over the inconsequential (such as the unfolded laundry.)
I will listen to each story, sing the extra song, read one more book. And then, at some point when I look back and realize that it was the last, I won't also realize that I missed it.