There is not a mother out there who has raised her children who doesn’t wish she could have lived a little more in the moment when her kids were little — a mother who knows, if she is being truly honest, that she may have spent a little too much time on the “act” of parenting and not enough on the “art” of parenting.
As a mom of three boys, and with my youngest son now entering senior year of high school, I’m starting to see that I’m reaching the end of the hands-on part of being a parent. I’m moving into the next phase of my life — when I’m spending more of my free time in a dusty basement sifting through old Lego sets, Mighty Machine videos, and Brio train sets that could build tracks around my house three times (and actually have).
This process of giving away an endless assortment of toys to Goodwill should be quick and easy, but of course it is not. It seems that every Matchbox car or beat-up dump truck I hold in my hands magically opens a treasure box of memories still deep within my heart.
Every Matchbox car or beat-up dump truck I hold in my hands magically opens a treasure box of memories deep within my heart.
Gone are the days when Connor thought garbage trucks were the coolest thing coming down our street each week, when Michael spent hours building elaborate Lego sets that covered our dining room table, and when Dillon insisted on wearing his bright red truck overalls and yellow plastic hard hat everywhere. Those times seem so near, not so long ago.
I wish I could remember when they all suddenly stopped being “little.”
- When was the last time they each stopped reaching for my hand when we were crossing the street?
- When did I read the last book to them sitting on their beds at night?
- When did I get my last “leaping hug” when I got home from work?
If we are quite honest, maybe we don’t chronicle those “lasts” because it would just be too sad.
In our precious baby books, we chronicled the day they took their first step, said their first word, got their first tooth. Somehow amid all the laundry, lunches, illnesses, and a life that revolved around school and Little League and home, we forgot to notice these precious “lasts” with the three little boys we love beyond words.
If I had known 10 years ago it was Dillon’s last time reaching up to hold my hand crossing the street, I don’t think I would have let go.
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If I had known 10 years ago that it was Dillon’s last time reaching up to hold my hand crossing the street, I don’t think I would have ever let go.
As I continue to sort through the hundreds of old storybooks in the boxes surrounding me, they are morphing into endless pages, each bound in precious sweet memories. In one moment my sons were sitting on our laps listening to “Good Night Moon” for the thousandth time — in the next we’re helping to move a mattress into their New York City apartment.
I once heard a childhood expert proclaim that the goal of parenting (if you are very lucky) is to have your children go from dependence, to independence, then finally to a co-dependent relationship with you. I see glimpses of this co-dependence more and more as my children get older and it is a beautiful thing to see. But still, I think that deep down I really just want to be known as “Mom.”
My three boys are tall, but I pray that they stand tall when they are confronted with tough choices and decisions in their lives.
Often I remind my children that they only get one mom. A mom who often tells you things you may not want to hear (you need a haircut NOW) or at times reminds you that you are crossing the line BIG TIME. Sort of a moral compass that talks (sometimes too loudly) in a world that is sometimes moving too quickly to wait for the needle to right itself and point the way.
As I look at the Halloween costumes too small for their now grown-up bodies, I realize it is time to let my boys be the giant people they were meant to be all on their own. At 6-feet 5-inches, 6-feet 6-inches, and 6-feet 11-inches, I know my three boys are tall, but I pray that they stand tall when they are confronted with tough choices and decisions in their lives.
I also pray they never forget where they came from.
Suddenly I hear Dillon lumbering down the basement steps, the same ones he used to descend belly first.
As I open yet another cabinet in the basement, I feel a little tired and overwhelmed by all I have left to do in the sorting out of this new role. Suddenly I hear Dillon lumbering down the basement steps, the same ones he used to go belly first down with me carefully watching him.
“What are you doing with all our stuff?” he practically yells. Dillon, all 6-feet 5-inches of him, is looking down at me, but still with the red hair and dimples I have always loved. He looks at the organized chaos I have created and tells me emphatically he is still using ALL OF IT and I absolutely cannot get rid of any of it.
Then he asks if he can borrow the car and $20 to go to a burger joint with his friends. I give him the keys, the cash, tell him to be careful, and ask for a hug. He shrugs and is gone.
Suddenly I realize that this was just one of those “last” memories of Dillon as a teenage boy living at home his senior year of high school. But this time, I am locking this memory down — the day I finally learned that I am a mom forever.