And yet, when I mentioned the day of that book, they both looked at me. They did not remember it. I assumed it was screwed into their memory just as much as it was mine, especially since, I swear to you, we read this book together very recently. But my “recent” was almost a lifetime ago for them. I gasped a little when I looked at one boy, who had just passed by me, and the other one, who was reading a 500-page book.
Who are these creatures? Truly, when did it happen?
We mostly do not know what moment will be the last of whatever that stage of childhood is. When was the last night I washed my boy’s hair? The last time I pushed him into a swing before he just did it himself? What was the last night I read “Brothers at Bat” aloud with a freshly bathed boy on either side of me?
You do not know which park visit or backyard ball throw will turn into a memory that is just that – a memory. Or what an astonishing remark at the zoo that made you laugh, simply fades away for the rest of the day like those dandelion seed puffs, along with millions of other moments you will never remember. It feels like those days, those moments will be with you forever.
Although I would not want to go back – we now enjoy so much fun! – I would definitely not mind a visit for a few hours. To remember how that baby felt chubby. To hear those little voices. To take a moment to appreciate that one of them is discovering something for the first time. To consider myself with the knowledge I have now. Would I have known what to pay more attention to because it was so completely fleeting?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the evenings and weekends we’ve spent on the Little League field nearby over the years. Our younger son, now 12, recently had his last game. Which means that after a decade of both he and his brother running the bases since they could barely read, this stage of baseball is over for my family. It’s not a small thing: It was on this field where he made his friends, where we made ours. The seats were often filled with his grandfather and neighbor. This was where his father helped coach so he could “have a front seat” in this part of their lives. So when that last innings happened, the tears welled up. Because as with most things related to raising children, it’s still a small loss. A little sad. A reminder that parenting, which consists of moment after moment of guidance, teaching, raising our children, therefore also essentially consists of moment after moment of letting go.
Who created this scripture? Was that really the best narrative arc there, mate?
I recognize these milestones as celebrations, of course, but also as the small losses that fill our lives as parents. We lose a little bit every time our child grows up, every time they graduate to whatever is next. Every moment they become a little more independent. Whatever, ironically, is what we as parents strive for.
A quick browse this morning through Instagram: “Compulsory last school day photo” “Suitcases packed for camp!” “Last step to primary school.”
We document it all in our own ways. We mark these moments of first, last, growing up on social media, in notes to friends, in our own thoughts and manners. We repost old photos, we read “throwback” photos, we talk about that time when. We understand where we can, knowing that these days are like trying to hold a cloud in your fingers.
These losses are reflected right along with the growth, in the graduation photos, in the newborn photos. “How can you be 6 months old!” An Instagram caption might say. “Oh, honey, do not wait,“I think so. I say this knowing that somewhere there is a mother looking at me, with me ‘Oh my god, how can he be a sophomore?… A grade 7?’ who thinks, “Oh, honey, do not wait.”
The last moment my child batted at that last Little League game was not one of those lost memories that drifted away with the wind. I knew it was coming, I knew I would pay attention. I knew, I knew.
His coach, our friend, who has been with him since he was 5, encouraged him from the third base and said, “Do it for the presidents!” – their first team together. My boy struck. His last innings in Little League. There were tears, reflection and also a lot of laughter afterwards when he and his pals made up a game until deep into the evening, as the sun went down.
That process he went through – tears, reflection, laughter – it’s kind of the same formula of parenting, isn ‘t it? Maybe we just mourn a little, but they grow, they become, and we are happy enough to continue to live it out.
“Are you okay, Mom?” asked a father near me as I watched that boy sadly on the field. Yes, I will be ok. My kids are growing up, and it’s great, and it’s sad. We go to whatever the next phase is. And I will celebrate them as they continue to move on and become even more themselves. That’s what our parents are here for.
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