When we become mothers, it is as though our children are attached to us by invisible ribbons that gradually lengthen and gently uncurl as these little people grow and learn and experience life.
When we are changing diapers and pacing the floor with crying babies, we look forward to the first smile, the first steps, the first words they will speak, the gut-wrenching first day of school. We don’t think about the lasts—they are far off in the distance.
When we become 30-something or 40-something moms, our perspective changes, or at least mine did: I started recognizing the “lasts.” The last day of kindergarten, followed more closely than I would have expected by the last day of elementary school.
Sometimes these lasts are only recognized as such several months later, as happened to me this past Christmas when I realized that the previous year was the last one where both of my kids still lived at home.
The reality of firsts and lasts snuck up on me again this week with the subtlety of a freight train.
My son had surgery to remove all four wisdom teeth. One of several times I changed gauze for him and gave him painkillers, I thought back to the time when he was three and his wet bare feet slipped on the back steps, tossing him on his chin, putting his two front teeth through his tongue. So much blood—and it was coming from my child.
It is no different now that he is older. However, now I know that my years of taking care of him are not stretched out before me the way they once were.
The reality is that this week has been bittersweet as I realize this is one of the last times that I have the privilege of being a bedside mom. The next time he is sick or hurting it may be that he is on the other side of the country like his sister is now. I may only be able to offer a sympathetic ear over the phone and a care package in the mail.
I also realize that this is how it should be. We bring our children into the world with hopes for their future, and raise them to be the best people they can be. There are bumps and scrapes along the way, for us as well as them, but we live through them all in this thing called a family.
It seems like only yesterday they were playing dress-up or standing on a chair to help me bake.
What I am learning is that while roles and definitions may change, my children are still attached by those invisible, uncurling ribbons—they are just learning how to weave them further into the world. They may not run to me wanting nothing more than to be held and loved, but they still need me, just in a different way.
I am uncertain what my life will look like when this stage of motherhood is done in a few more years, because so much of who I am is tied up in caring for my kids in a way that only I can do…but I’m confident that I’ll figure it out along the way.
Terri Tremblett is a freelance writer and editor who also works in finance and dabbles in various artistic pursuits. She is equally at home walking the beach or digging in the dirt but has not yet mastered the art of walking by a book store without going in. Her education did not end when she finished university, as her life regularly proves. She can sometimes be found behind her camera, often taking pictures of her kids, which they will thank her for some day.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel