Being Present for Every Last Time

I just read a poem that somebody posted on Facebook. It was sent from a mother-in-law to a friend that just had her third baby. (Still feeling a little touchy about that.) The bottom line was that: as hard as parenting is, we need to cherish every moment while our children are young. That these mundane things that take for granted: bathing them, changing them, holding their hands as they cross the street, will one day be no more. One day our child will no longer want to be bathed, changed, held. And when that “last time” comes, we will break down and cry and realize how much we should have treasured it while it was happening.

So, I read it, and it made me a bit sad. But I wasn’t devastated. Especially following some reflection of my own that I had been doing a bit earlier. Instead, I felt that the sentiment was rather dire and decided to continue and read the comment section of the post to see how others felt about it.

Some said they were weeping. One was relieved to have read this because she had just gotten through changing another diaper and wasn’t appreciating it enough. And then one mother of 4 and grandmother of 9 spoke up. She said that throughout her parenting, she witnessed many “last times,” but was never so deeply saddened by these as every last time was replaced with some mark of achievement and independence as the child gained growth and confidence. And that there was so much victory and pride in that, it made the “last time” of the prior seem less significant.

She went on to say that she had lost a grandchild at 2 years of age. And that that was a different story entirely. That the death of that child presented a true last time to all he would ever be and that the melancholy sentiment in the poem could not begin to compare to the true grief in that. And that is when I wept.

There is so much pressure on us today to appreciate every moment…even if it sucks…because all too soon it will be gone. And, of course, it is mostly true. I’ve been looking through all of my friends’ back to school pictures of their kids and thinking, “Wasn’t that child just born? Why is he wearing a backpack?” “He’s in first grade???” “She’s in MIDDLE school???” Or the kids who were toddlers when I was in college that are graduating from high school. Getting married. Having BABIES??? WTF??!

It goes by really fast.

But there are times that suck.

When Bubba was born and Rocketman was turning three, there were times that sucked. Bubba’s birth was beautiful and so was he. tghjgRocketman’s first time meeting him was the most beautiful event I have ever witnessed and their relationship was magical right from the start. I loved and cherished that little baby and toddler. And, in that first year, we had some great times. We went to a music class where Rocketman was the star of the show and Bubba began to come alive and it was the highlight of our weeks. We cuddled. We had dance parties. Playdates with the Moms Club. Good times.

But a whole lot of stuff that year sucked. Because, a lot of that first year was: me struggling with nursing, being on medication to try to increase my milk supply, feeling like a failure as a mother for not producing enough, feeling like a failure as a woman for not being able to do what all women are supposed to be able to do. Being anxious ALL THE TIME. All the time. Every moment between waking up and sleeping and throughout the night in my dreams. Feeling like a mess with breast pumps hanging off me while Rocketman peed on the floor and popped in his underwear.

I couldn’t send Rocketman to preschool (which he desperately needed) because he wouldn’t potty train. Every trip out the door would require me to pack a breast pump, meds, bottles, formula, purified water, diapers for two, changes of clothes for two, a breast feeding apron, snacks and changes of underwear. Rocketman was always overstimulated before we left the house (which I didn’t realize was related to sensory issues at the time) and it took hours trying to dress him, keep him clean and still and get him to the car. Bubba was SO fantastic. But he was hungry all the time and every feeding meant some bottle, an attempt to breastfeed, a failure to breastfeed and pumping. But I was so tired and so anxious and felt like I was losing my mind to the point that I needed to be evaluated for an in-house program at the hospital for post-partum depression. When it was time to go back to work when Bubba was 8 months old, I was chomping at the bit.

We are now a year out from the culmination of that crazy year. Bubba is 2 and Rocketman 5. And things are (dare I say it) EASY compared to that precious time. Rocketman goes to the bathroom in the toilet, for one. He is receiving treatment for his sensory issues and is making tremendous progress in so many areas, including that of self-regulation. He amazes me EVERY day with the amount of kindness, sensitivity and awareness he possesses and I look forward to seeing him and just hanging out and talking at the end of a long day.

Bubba has grown into a strong, healthy, active toddler, despite the lack of breast milk he received. He is smart and fun, funny and sweet. He loves to cuddle with Mommy, but adores his big brother above all else. And today was beautiful.

Bubba and I brought Rocketman to school and then set out on errands around town. In my diaper bag, I carried only diapers and wipes for one. And a juice box just in case. When we got home, Bubba was tired, so we put on Barney and cuddled in my bed. When Barney was over, I read him books, which he recited with me (“Bubbles bubbles in my hair, bubbles bubbles EVERYWHERE!”) and then we went to his bedroom for some songs. I sang nursery rhymes from a big red book while he sang along, cuddling up in his “wankie.” When “This Little Piggy” turned up, I asked for his little tooties and he laughed and poked them out from under the blanket, scrunching up his little face and body in anticipation of the “Wee, wee, wee…” part. When we read “Rock-a-bye baby” (the song 2-year-old Rocketman would sing to Bubba when he was in my belly), he climbed into my arms, wankie and all as I sang and rocked through three verses. And I thought THESE!!! THESE MOMENTS!!

I don’t want to miss them when they are gone, though I know I will. I just want to savor them while they are here. Not all of them, though. Not the high anxiety, always sweating, tired of listening to that mother fucking breast pump times. But that time today. When Bubba climbed out of his little toddler bed wrapped in his wankie and into my arms so that I could rock him and sing “Rock-a-by-Baby” while the ceiling fan hummed quietly and whispered cool relief to the final dog days of summer in early September 2014.

In January, I attended a “Glow in the Dark” New Years Eve party at dear friends’ home. On the wall they had a big piece of chart paper that was labeled, “New Years Resolutions- 2014.” Guests would pass by throughout the night and scribble everything from funny to sentimental to profane. I wandered over myself some time before the ball dropped and picked up the glowing highlighter, not knowing at all what I was going to write. As I always do when I am writing, I simply applied the pen to paper and let it write for itself. It wrote: Be Present.

I was present the entire year that Rocketman was born, and I remember it well. I was present for his first year and well into his second, while I was pregnant with Bubba. And then I kinda lost it. I lost that first year with Bubba and R’s year of three. Last year, one and four, I remember as better than the previous one, but also very hard as it began with R being evaluated as having some special needs and played out as spending the entire year trying to get the needs met.

But now they are being met. And now they are two and five. And their needs are fewer. But they are still young. And fun, and funny. There have been some “lasts” in the past two years. R’s last poopy pull-up- July 2013…I know that. Bubba’s last bottle….probably a ton more. But I’m struggling to think of them. Because I am here right now, still living it and it is getting so much easier and pleasurable. That I had the time to rock my “baby” and sing to him because he asked me to. That is beautiful. Even if it never happens again, it’s still beautiful. And the most beautiful thing of all, was that it happened because I was able to “be present.” Nothing else mattered at that moment. Not making lunch, chasing a toddler, letting out the dog, answering the phone, tending to another child. It was just me and Bubba that existed in that moment that brought so much joy to us both.

I finished reading that grieving grandmother’s comment and scrolled down to peruse a few more. One complained that it wasn’t really a poem, but prose. Another said she was weeping. But one dad thanked the woman for sharing, saying that he had lost a child at 11 months. And then someone quoted my favorite, Dr. Suess, and wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  And that only reminded me of Rocketman, old soul that he is, on the eve of his fourth birthday when I was pouring over baby pictures and lamenting about where the year had gone and he turned to me and said, “I’m right here, Mom. If you are really that sad, you can just cuddle me like I’m a baby and then we will both be happy.”

I am blessed with every moment I am here on Earth with my beautiful boys. Whether they are two years or twenty two years old, I will cherish our time spent together and will continue to marvel at their growth and achievements. I will continue to work on being present and try to record those moments afterward so that I can reflect on them years after they have happened for the “last time.”

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