The Last Time
I thought it was a night like any other night. I was folding the laundry on my bed, listening to my daughter sing her heart out in the shower. Then my throat tightened and I felt panic set in. When did I last wash her hair?
I ran to the bathroom and opened the door so I could yell inside, ‘Katie, do you need any help washing your hair?’
Her reply brought tears to my eyes, ‘No, Mama. I’m fine.’
I’ve always tried my best to appreciate every day with my seven children. There has been a motto I’ve lived with in parenting ever since I had my first child:
Make sure they remember joy yesterday, experience joy today, and anticipate joy tomorrow.
I just didn’t know tomorrow would come so soon.
I’m a firm believer in kids playing hard and getting dirty. And my two oldest daughters sure did that. Every day, they were out in the Arizona sunshine–climbing, digging, swinging, and getting very, very dirty. Children have to get dirty. It’s a universal law. And I’m not about to tamper with universal law.
But with dirt, comes baths. I remember when my two oldest daughters, Kelsey and Katie, would take baths together. I would wash their hair, then let them play in the bathtub for awhile. It was our routine. Then they got older. Baths turned into showers, but I was still there to come in and help them wash their hair. Then the hair washing turned into just helping them rinse out the shampoo. Then the rinsing turned into the occasional, “let’s go back in the shower and I’ll help you rinse that one spot on top of your head.”
Then came, “No, Mama. I’m fine.”
Here’s the deal with motherhood: It’s our job to raise independent kids; but no one tells you how to handle it when it really happens.
That night, it happened.
I thought back–When was the last time? When was the last moment I rinsed the shampoo out of her hair? Why didn’t I know it was the last time? If I would have known, I would have done a better job, or made it last longer, or kissed her head, or something.
I would have done something!
I couldn’t see the laundry anymore because the tears blurred my vision. But I kept folding. Folding and praying. ‘God, help me remember how quickly this is going by. Help me appreciate every single day–even the hard ones. Show me the beauty in each moment–even the bad ones.’
The cure isn’t to slow down. That’s impossible. The cure is a heart of wisdom. The wisdom to know that broken dishes, stained clothes, and spilled food are never reasons to lose your temper. The wisdom to know that school assignments can always be done later, after the sun sets and the mud puddles have all dried up. The wisdom to know that every moment is a sacred moment–changing diapers, snuggling on the sofa, swinging at the park, even washing hair. They’re all sacred, if you can just slow down enough to see it.
There will be a last fort with chairs and blankets. There will be a last story before bed. There will be a last outfit put on a Barbie doll. There will be a last swing at the park. We don’t need to know when the last one will be. We just need the heart of wisdom to appreciate each one.
I took a little longer brushing her hair tonight. And I lingered as I put her hair into a single braid down her back. When I kissed her goodnight, it lasted a couple more seconds than usual. Because after seven children and years of thinking I had all the time in the world, I realized something. life will run off with you if you let it. Sometimes, you just have to stop and breathe it in.
Thank you, God, for braids before bedtime. Thank you for messy kitchens and legos on the floor. Thank you for noisy dinner times and late-night conversations, for forts, baby dolls, fingerpaint, and bedtime stories. Thank you for broken wrists and shampoo for brunettes. Thank you for teaching me to number my days. And, God, when I forget, please give me a nudge and number them for me.”
By Hannah Keeley of For Every Mom