One thing that always surprises me about mothering is that, despite the fact that my personality tends toward what might kindly be known as hyper-vigilance, I still miss about 90% of motherhood’s endings.
The truth is, absent the endings you can’t miss because they bear down on you like a freight train (the last day of nursery school comes to mind) and the ones you actually make happen (giving away the high chair), the vast majority of motherhood’s endings go completely unremarked.
You would think it would just be a matter of common courtesy that, when a child no longer needs you for something – to carry him on your hip, to go Trick or Treating, to tuck him into bed – you would get some sort of a heads up. It seems only decent that someone be around to tap you on your shoulder and remind you to treasure the moment because it is the last time you will ever…
Here are some of the last times I have not noticed: when one of my boys sucked his thumb, held my hair for comfort, asked me to tie his shoes, rode on my shoulders, mispronounced my name, cried when I left, crawled into my bed in the middle of the night, or looked at me as if I were the brightest star that ever shone at the center of any universe.
The truth is, growth is a conspiracy. Mother and child have to collude for it to happen. The child by nature and design tilts toward growth and mastery. Bit by bit, he takes on for himself all that the mother has done for him. It is his job.
I’ve always felt my job as a mother was to facilitate my boys’ growth. I have wanted them to grow. I have delighted in their delight at picking up the first Cheerio, balancing on their own two feet, leaping alone into the water. But if I am honest, I have to admit that I have also wanted them to grow because I got a little sick of the endless diapers and bottles, the tucking and carrying, the minute and intricate needs.
So my boys and I conspired to ensure their growth. And I guess the truth is, if one of those endings had happened, and I knew it was happening, my sadness at the loss might have upset our delicately forged compact, stopped us in our tracks.
But I still wish someone had tapped me on the should last year around this time when Middle, Youngest and I had just finished our yearly last-minute pilgrimage to Staples, when the pickings are slim and the patrons are panicked. I wish that person had said, as I fidgeted impatiently in line, swearing to myself we would buy school supplies the first week of August this year, to just look around and take it all in because it was the last time.
Youngest and I had planned to get school supplies today, but we are in the middle of a record heat wave and he was preparing his draft roster for his rookie year playing Fantasy Football (LaDainian Tomlinson, yessss!) and thus was reluctant to go. Without thinking, I suggested that we shop online. It took about five minutes. No crowds. No heat. No lines. No grabbing expensive pens that will be lost in the first week. He looked over my shoulder briefly, but left quickly to mull his dream draft picks. I picked out the binders, decided we already have adequate supplies of pens, pencils and paper and clicked Submit.