Saturday, 6 July 2013

Cherishing the "Lasts"

As parents, we make a big deal about all of the firsts. The first smile. First tooth. First word. First steps. First day at school. And so on. But in our excitement to move on to the next milestone, we don't always take the time to value the "lasts"...probably because often, we don't know when they're going to happen.

Barring any surprises, I've had my last pregnancy. The last time I'll feel a new life growing inside of me; the last time I'll hold a wailing newborn with tears in my own eyes and think, Hello, my little one...I've been waiting so long to meet you. 

In a week, it will be the baby's birthday—the last time we have to count her age in months instead of years. In a month, it will be the last day of my last maternity leave.
One of these days will be the last time I nurse the baby, or the last time I rock her to sleep in that green rocking chair I've spent so many hours in. One day, my three-year-old will call me "mama" for the last time, moving on to "mommy" or "mom" instead. 

Don't get me wrong, there are some "lasts" that I won't miss. The last cluster feed, for example...spending hours camped out with a baby attached to my breast. Or the last diaper change, whenever we finally get there.

But each age and stage has its unique and fleeting joys and challenges. And I think we need to cherish—and mourn—all of the "lasts" before we can truly move on. 

So I'll pack up the swaddling blankets, the nursing pillows and the newborn toys for our next garage sale—but not without a pang of regret.

Thank goodness there are so many firsts to look forward to.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

It's All About the Moments

As soon as you get married or are in a long-term relationship, people start asking that pivotal question, "When are you going to have kids?" (And it's usually phrased as a "when" not an "if"). People started asking me the moment I returned from my honeymoon! And then once you've had a child, people immediately start asking, "Are you going to have more?"

But having kids is a choice, and the choice is a difficult one.

I've always wanted kids, and I would make the case for having them to anyone who asked me. The funny thing is, I find it hard to explain why. Sure, I wrote a recent post on Five Good Reasons to Have Kids, but that's not the whole story.

When you look at the practicalities, it seems there are more arguments against having kids than for it. Kids are expensive—moving from diapers to daycare to after-school activities to university expenses, there's a continual drain on your finances. Kids are needy—from day one, it's all about their needs, their wants, their schedule. 

In fact, kids change the entire face of your life as you know it. No longer will you be able to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the movies or take a vacation—you'll have to plan well in advance. You won't want to stay out late or party hard on Saturday night, because you know the kids will be up bright and early the next morning, regardless of what you want to do. And you won't have as much time as a couple, because now, you're a family.

So what is it about having kids that makes us converts? Once we truly understand the depth of the commitment, why do we often want to do it again?

I've thought about it long and hard, and I think it comes down to the moments. The first smile. Those wobbly first steps. When your toddler learns to say "I love you." When your child makes you laugh hysterically at something utterly ridiculous. A big hug at the end of a long day. The peaceful look on your sleeping baby's face. There are so many beautiful moments, every day.

It's easy to forget or diminish the importance of these moments during those times when parenting seems like a long uphill battle; when you resent the constant demands on your time and patience, and you're tired of putting everyone else first.

But then it happens: 

Your child comes running to you yelling "Mama!", as though you're the only person in the world she wants to see.

You watch your kids giggling at each other in the backseat of the car. 

Your baby looks up at you with a sunny smile that's filled with pure joy and worship.

And you're hooked again.