The Last Times: Embracing the Changing Phases of Your Child

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last times

The children are changing, and so are we.

I can remember like it was yesterday seeing my oldest daughter perched high upon my husband’s shoulders watching the fireworks at Disney World. He can recall that it was the last time she was up on his shoulders. In our moment of reflection years ago, we decided that we must start being more mindful of all those last times. We are always having fun with our children, but we needed to slow down in the moments of joy and in the challenging ones.

My husband decided to come along to pick up our youngest daughter from school one day. Unbeknownst to me, he was secretly recording our daughter with his phone as she ran out of school. I will never forget the toothless smile on her face, the sound of her dress shoes hitting the pavement as she clip-clopped towards us with excitement to see her Daddy and tell him all about her day. That brief video became priceless because it was one of the last times.

When the dust settles from the whirlwind of changing phases, I will revel in all the memories we made.

It is easy to get caught up in the diapers, the laundry, the maddening search for that lost shoe, the tantrums, the tears, the endless poster board projects, and the packing of lunches. But, I learned that when I can keep the mindset that it is all temporary, that my sanity will one day return and that the phases come and go, just as the children one day will, I can navigate and appreciate the entire experience of raising children. It is hands down the hardest and undeniably the most rewarding job I have ever had.

I became aware of the impending last times and it helps me stay alert in the moment. The third time around nine years later with a newborn, I tried every day to absorb everything raw and real and hard and fleeting…(yes, even in those sleepless nights while nursing and the bleary-eyed early wake-up calls to catch the school bus). I know already with older children how fast time really goes. We just do our best to keep making new memories every day.

They always need me to be present, through every phase and chapter.

Mindful parenting through the changing phases allows me to take those still-shots in my mind. I try not to overthink the small stuff, and on most days, I am winning. I watch my toddler son’s gleeful smile going down the slide, knowing he will soon be riding a bike and then off playing with friends. I recognize that our teen daughters are looking a little more grown-up these days, and this is the transition into a new chapter. Although they no longer need me to hold their hand, and the drop-offs are numbered as one will be driving soon, they will still need me there to listen.

The beauty in embracing the changing phases of my children is that I am growing and changing as a parent. What your baby needs is not the same as your toddler…or your teen. I can’t remember exactly when my daughter stopped coming in our bed at night, I just realized one day she had stopped. Now, when my daughters want to jump in our bed at night to watch television or just chat past bedtime, I am more than thrilled to invite them in. For I know that the days are long and the years are short. When my son asks for “one more bedtime story, opay Mommy?”-I am game. You never know, tomorrow they may no longer need it and the next phase may be just about to begin.

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