The complex, contradictory nature of motherhood is what makes parenting so rewarding, and in the very same breath, painfully bittersweet. As our children grow and mature, we begin to reap the rewards of the blood, sweat, and tears we pour in to them because watching them develop in to independent, happy people should be our one and only North Star. Yet, those same accomplishments bring moments of grief, as the little beings we have worked so hard on and for also begin to pull away.
A 2019 Mother’s Day commercial from Hallmark has made the viral rounds once again, causing mothers across the country to sob big, fat tears into their morning coffee. It eloquently portrays the complicated emotions associated with watching our kids grow and thrive. We spend all of our physical, emotional, and monetary resources ensuring our children are well cared for, safe, and content. And although we want to celebrate reaching each milestone, it also feels as if their childhood is slipping away like sand in an hourglass.
We may not recognize it in the moment, but so many “last times” slide through our fingers without a notice. The last bottle, the last time they needed to be tucked in at night, or the last time they asked for help with their homework might come and go without a passing glance. It isn’t until we feel the sting of their absence do we understand another phase has passed us, and we never got the chance to tell it goodbye. What a wicked trick motherhood plays on us all!
I feel all of these emotions deeply as I am certain we have had our last baby. He is quickly approaching two, and the baby days are almost in my rearview mirror. It is sad to know the evenings of rocking with a sweet head resting on my shoulder are limited. Soon, he will be similar to our five-year-old who plays and jumps without abandon and is learning to read and understand the world around him.
And as I look at that almost kindergartener, it makes me weepy to know he will soon become a big kid, in the world of school, carrying a backpack that seems bigger than he is. He is ready and excited to join our seven-year-old in elementary school who asks more interesting questions than most adults I know. He also is starting to pull away from my “embarrassing” hugs and wanting to play with his friends more than he wants to cuddle. It seems as though in an instant he became a boy, leaving little trace of the little one he just was.
Even though all of these moments seem to have come and gone faster than I would like, it also is gratifying to see our kids become who they are. I want them to need me, and I’m sure they always will, just in different ways. These transitions are as hard on me as they are on them. I can be immensely proud of who they are morphing into and grieve the little babies they have left behind. As infants, they need us every second of every day, and the reality of that commitment hits new parents like a brick wall. It is draining and hard, to say the least! And yet, when they begin to need us less and less, we realize how accustomed we became to being needed. As those moments become a distant memory, we long for them to return.
Having just celebrated Mother’s Day, it’s nice to reflect on why we sought out this job in the first place. We knew motherhood would be hard, and yet we decided to embark on the journey anyway. When I pictured myself being a mother, I didn’t necessarily dream of carrying a baby on my hip all day. Instead, I pictured a Thanksgiving table, full of raucous laughter. I pictured the end goal, not realizing the beginning and middle were just as sweet, if not more. Right now, I’m at the beginning of the story, and I’m trying to make myself notice when lasts might be approaching so I can savor them just a little longer.