Saturday, August 16, 2008

The First's and Last's of Childhood

Last night, we put Ashton down at 9 p.m. Due to his illness, his bedtime has been all over the place. Daniel and I were expecting a crazy amount of crying and fussing from him. But, to our surprise the protesting only lasted about 20 minutes. What a blessing.

I also knew that putting him to bed earlier meant getting up earlier. So this morning I saw 6 a.m. for the first time in I can't remember how many months. Amazingly, that wasn't so bad because I took a Zyrtec D last night and had a awful time sleeping.

Since it was 6 a.m., I was up with Ashton alone. I gave him a bottle and fed him some yogurt. Then we played a bit and started getting tired. I picked him up an sat in the recliner. As we were rocking, I remembered a note from a book written by Karen Kingsbury. In it, the mother talks about how we always celebrate the "firsts" and overlook the "lasts". I started thinking about the kids then.

I don't really remember when it happened. It was sometime late last year when Sarah stopped needing to take my hand when we crossed the street. She hadn't really "needed" to for a while, it was just comforting to the both of us. I remember how she used to say "Pick you up" when she wanted to be held. It was so cute and touching. How did I miss the change from that?

I remember when she used to crawl everywhere and when that stopped. And, I remember when all I had to do was redirect her from something she shouldn't be doing and that was enough to get her to stop. I remember when she looked to me for all of her knowledge, but at some point, that started shifting. Now she looks to others as well.

I remember when Sarah was small enough to comfortably cuddle on my lap. And how she would lay her head on my chest and fall asleep. I remember when I used to wake her up singing "You are my sunshine." I don't know what made me stop.

To this day, she still runs into my arms and wants me to pick her up. That too is almost at the point of ending. I'm doing all I can to delay that, but she refuses to stop growing!

As for Ashton, I held him a little longer this morning as he was asleep on my chest. His little thumb was placed securely in his mouth as he drifted off. I thought to myself, how much longer will this little one find solace sleeping on me? Not much.

I thought back to recently when he left the stationary stage of infancy and learned to roll over. For a while, that was it. Then he learned to belly flop forward. I remember how exciting it was to see that change to a real crawl. And now he's pulling himself up. All of these things, show how much he is growing and at the same time it shows how he slowly gaining his independence.

Each time, we say goodbye to a phase our children go though, we say hello to a new step in their quest to become adults. As nostalgic as it is to look back and celebrate the new things our child does, it wrenches my heart to see the stage pass. I know this is normal and I thank God for being the person he put in my children's path to guide them from one stage to the next.

As a parent, one of the hardest things to face is that from infancy, we are preparing our children for independence. In the beginning, they need us constantly. As they grow, they start moving on their own and then they start thinking for themselves. One day we send them off to school and then it's camp. And then it's on to college and so forth. Each time we send them off, our heart tugs.

For me personally, I long to be there standing beside Sarah as she faces many things. But I know deep down that my place has changed in her life. I'm still doing my part as a mom to shape and mould her, but now I'm also encouraging her to let go of my hand and experience some things for herself. As she matures, I have to step back and give her a chance to practice her use of free will. I still have a big part in that, but as she ages I'll be required to step back even more, letting her realize her successes and make her own mistakes. It's hard sometimes to hold back on always telling her what she should do but she will not learn any other way. Then again, I love being the one to whom she brings her problems and questions.

As for Ashton, his journey has just begun. Right now, he's content to sit in my arms as much as I let him. Every now and then he'll start squirming as if to say, "I'm ready to explore Mom. Let me go." It will only be a matter of time before he'll be moving on the next stage...

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