As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in the “firsts.” First tooth, first birthday, first steps, first words, first day of school. There are so many to be celebrated, and celebrate we do. But as one mom recently realized, sometimes we need to take a moment to appreciate the “lasts” that we never thought we’d miss.
As Hannah Keeley writes on For Every Mom, the truth of this came home to her one day while listening to her daughter sing in the shower. All of a sudden, Keeley realized that it had been a long time since she had helped her daughter wash her hair.
It seems like a little thing. Sometimes it’s a chore. But it also prompts memories in which you watch yourself wash your infant, one hand steadying her, the other simultaneously trying to shampoo her wisps of hair while keeping the soap out of her eyes. Then, you’re trying to persuade a toddler to stop playing long enough to get her hair wet. Then, you’re just there to help get the spots she can’t reach. And then, without even realizing it, you’ve stopped helping and she has stopped needing help. As Keeley notes, it’s a bittersweet moment.
“I thought back–When was the last time? When was the last moment I rinsed the shampoo out of her hair? Why didn’t I know it was the last time? If I would have known, I would have done a better job, or made it last longer, or kissed her head, or something. I would have done something!”
“I couldn’t see the laundry anymore because the tears blurred my vision. But I kept folding. Folding and praying. ‘God, help me remember how quickly this is going by. Help me appreciate every single day–even the hard ones. Show me the beauty in each moment–even the bad ones.’”
As a parent, you know that your child’s growing independence is a good thing. It’s not that you want them to continue to be completely dependent on you. But, as Keeley writes, accepting that your child will need you less as she gets older also means learning to appreciate each moment you do have.
“The cure isn’t to slow down,” says Keeley. “That’s impossible. The cure is a heart of wisdom. The wisdom to know that broken dishes, stained clothes, and spilled food are never reasons to lose your temper. The wisdom to know that school assignments can always be done later, after the sun sets and the mud puddles have all dried up. The wisdom to know that every moment is a sacred moment–changing diapers, snuggling on the sofa, swinging at the park, even washing hair. They’re all sacred, if you can just slow down enough to see it.”
And every once in a while, you may get an unexpected gift that brings that lesson home. As Keeley notes, life is full of ‘”lasts” that slip right past us. The last book you read to a sleepy child. The last blanket fort that takes over the living room. The last time you step on a lego in the dark and then put your other foot down on a Barbie stiletto. (At least, I hope there’s a last time for that.)
Keeley had a second chance to enjoy the closeness of washing her daughter’s hair after a broken wrist made her dependent on mom again. And this time, she took advantage of the opportunity, laughing and enjoying every moment of it.
We don’t get to know when these last chances will come, says Keeley, so it’s on us to appreciate each moment with our children as they come.
“Thank you for noisy dinner times and late-night conversations, for forts, baby dolls, fingerpaint, and bedtime stories,” Keeley writes. “Thank you for broken wrists and shampoo for brunettes. Thank you for teaching me to number my days. And, God, when I forget, please give me a nudge and number them for me.”
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