Breathe it in, Mama.

Worn out from the Sunday funday activities, I laid my head down on my pillow, threw one leg half-heartedly over my husband and immediately was sound asleep.  Then, ever so faintly, I heard our oldest child quietly calling out for me.  I felt confused for a moment because he never needs me in the middle of the night anymore but as soon as I heard him again, I sprung out of bed and went into his room.

“My stomach hurts mama.  Will you lay with me for a minute?”

I asked him if he needed some medicine and he shook his head no so I crawled in the bed with him. At 13, when he wants one of us to lay with him, he rolls over as far as he can on the other side of the bed and just wants to talk until he falls asleep.  Although it’s unspoken, both of us know that with each passing day, he is crossing the threshold from child to man, needing me less and less.  But on this night, the night when his stomach hurt and he wanted his mama, he rolled over next to me and gently laid his head on my shoulder.  His messy hair tickled my nose but instead of turning away, I breathed it in. I imagined for a brief moment that he was that chubby toddler who always wanted “under my wing, chick” and would drop anything he was doing for a chance to sit in my lap and just be held.  He seemed more settled, having me there, and my heart felt the contentment that only a mama’s can.  Just as I was about to fall back asleep, my eyes popped open and I thought to myself, “what if this is the last time he snuggles you like this?  What if that was the last time he calls for you in the night?!”  The thought made my heart race a little and I squeezed him tight and kissed him on the forehead, determined to etch every detail of the moment into my long term memory-just in case.

And so I’ve been thinking, as my children grow older, why don’t we worry and plan for the “lasts” in life like we do the “firsts”?  We talk and obsess, plan and prepare for their first words, first steps, first night sleeping in their big bed alone, first day of kindergarten.  Always the firsts.  And the are important.  But as a mama in this season of life, I want to be just as concerned with the “lasts”.  When was the moment I last held my toddler and packed him around on my hip before he became a little boy, to heavy for mama to pack around?   I’m sure it happened when I wasn’t looking and was over so quickly that I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.  When will my daughter need me to put up her hair in a ponytail for the last time?  When will she ask me to play American Girls with her for a final mommy and me play-date before her preteen years call for her with unrelenting persistence? Will her words hit me with the importance and force of a child leaving one stage and entering the next or will I be so preoccupied with something trivial that her words come and go like the blowing of the wind?

And God forbid something happens to my husband before we’ve lived out all our dreams and are well into our golden years.  Will I pick up his clothes from the floor and grumble words of disdain under my breath for the last time?  Will I know to savor it and  linger a little longer than normal if we should share a kiss before one of us goes on to be with the Lord, our time together ended abruptly by life and circumstance?  Lord, help me to breathe in the “last” moments with my children and husband as much as I breathed in their “firsts”.

When I want to clean and gripe about the house being a mess, Lord help me to pause and just breathe it in.  When I want to blow my teenager off when he asks me to watch him play video games, help me to remember that one day his desire for me to watch will become nothing more than a memory.  When my baby girl needs her mama to listen to her tales from school, help me to savor her words, storing them away in case her teenage years silence the chatter.  Help me Lord, to remember that my baby boy still wants to climb into his mama’s lap to get some snuggles and read a book-and that is more important than a sink full of dishes.  And Lord, please help me not to forget that when my precious husband wants to take me out for the night, I should always go, even if it’s pain to find a sitter.