Some days you feel like you have it all together and should probably write a manual for all those poor souls who have so much to learn. (You know you've thought it.)
Some days you find yourself hoping there really is such a manual, and that it has been written by someone who actually knows what they're talking about. (And you know it isn't you.)
Some days you feel like a hostage negotiator standing on the sidewalk and calling out, "Look, I just don't wanna see anyone get hurt!" (And you're not sure who you're more worried about - them or you.)
It's true. Raising kids is the ride of a lifetime!
I recently came across a picture of my youngest son when he was about three years old. He was sitting on a trolley in Chicago, all hyped up at the prospect of seeing dinosaurs and mummies at the field museum. It made me smile because it captured his personality perfectly. He always managed to look both sweet and guilty, in equal parts. At three years old, he embraced life and all the experiences it had to offer.
He is in middle school now, and some of the sweetness has given way to the trials and tribulations of junior high, as it always does. Seeing that picture of him suddenly made me realize how far we are from that little boy on the trolley and how very close we are to the boy getting his diploma, and I am fighting a little bit of panic. I just realized I am being pushed relentlessly into the next phase of my life.
And it finally hit me. Every stage my youngest son has left behind has become a "never again."
I will never again wake up snuggled next to my new baby. I will never again have a toddler running around naked (except for the new superhero underwear on his head) with a singing potty strategically placed in my living room. I will never again summon the tooth fairy or mail letters to Santa Claus. I will never again go to kindergarten roundup or have my dining room table marked up with the remnants of shaving cream art, fingerpaint, or gouges from a fork made by a boy impatiently waiting for his dinner. I will never again chaperone an elementary school field trip or gear myself up emotionally for sleepovers or have "the talk" with a red-faced preteen.
I want to hang onto every day, every moment, every breath - because I can feel this phase slipping away faster and faster and soon I know I'm going to wake up and wonder what happened because the house will be quiet and even though I've secretly dreamed of that on my toughest days, I know I'm not ready.
But as I tuck away each "never again," I can see a whole list of "haven't yets" forming on the horizon. They're still pretty hazy and mostly hidden in shadows, but I can still see them.
I haven't yet come home to a quiet house with nothing demanding my attention except a good book. I haven't yet been able to plan vacations with my husband focused solely around the two of us and our mid-life interests. I haven't yet had time to publish my book or spend a whole Saturday in my garden. I haven't yet looked into the face of a new grandchild and felt the promise of a new beginning.
I know it will be hard to let go of this stage - the worrying, snuggling, messy, crazy, joyous stage of raising kids. Even on my most trying days, I have loved having these children and helping them grow. And when this last one finally leaves us to find his own way, I know it won't be easy.
But it will be okay, because there are new things waiting for me just beyond the horizon.
And I haven't yet . . .