Fourteen years ago I was pregnant with my oldest son and I spent all my free moments devouring every baby book I could get my hands on. I bookmarked websites about babies and child development, confident that I would now know where to turn for guidance along every step of my parenting journey. I joined online groups with other mommies to expand my social network and find potential support resources. I prepared and prepared and then prepared some more.
But, all those books and websites failed to tell me something important; something that would make me cry rivers of tears sometimes and would keep me awake some nights. They never told me the reality that I would lose my baby, my toddler, my sweet impressionable elementary school little boy over and over again. I would grieve a million little losses all before he even learns to drive.
As I sat and watched my youngest son perform in his annual end of the school year concert yesterday, I was hit with a pang of thick sadness. In that moment, I realized he has only one more year left in his elementary school experience. We are almost at the end of this chapter of his life and the pages are turning super fast.
Watching him on the stage called my memory back to when my oldest son was on that same stage singing songs about summer vacation and growing up. Where did that time go? Now he’s closer to graduating high school and going to prom than he is to boarding the kindergarten school bus for the first time or holding my hand in public.
While I love the young men my boys are becoming, my heart aches for the babies I used to have. Those babies that played with my long hair as I nursed them, fell asleep as I sang them lullabies, and squealed with delight when I would make a funny face at them are no longer here. They are gone. Sure, they are forever lodged in my memories and in online photo albums but I will never see them again, never hold them again, never kiss their sweet heads covered in soft baby hair again.
Those toddlers that sat in between me and my husband on Disney World rides, grabbed our hands, looked up at us with nervous anticipation and asked in raspy little voices, “ready mama daddy?” have left our lives forever.
The bright eyed and naive first and second graders that bounded off the bus each day after school, eager to show us their drawings and asking to snuggle with us while watching a cartoon don’t live with me anymore.
Those babies. Those toddlers. Those young school children. Gone.
None of the baby books or websites or mommy groups told me about these losses. No one prepared me for how many times, like yesterday’s concert, the realization of the little boys I no longer had would hit me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere. No one gave me a heads up for the real pain I would feel when I realize they are forever changed and the former versions of them no longer exist.
Don’t get me wrong. I love who my boys are now. There are so many amazing moments that fill me with joy as I parent my teen and my tween; moments that make me think that these versions of them are my favorite. Lurking at the back of my mind, however, is the knowledge that these versions of them too will fade away, and I will mourn their loss again.
As I watched my oldest son on the baseball field and heard about my youngest son making amazing saves as goalie at his lacrosse game today, I made a conscious decision to savor these moments. I took mental snapshots of today’s version of my boys and sat with the realization that these versions are fading before my eyes. As other parents around me complained about the baseball game taking too long or their kids making errors, I leaned into the extra time I got to spend watching them today, choosing to focus on taking in every aspect of my boys and who they are today.
Because now I know.
There are still a million more little losses to come.