As I walked across the parking lot with my ten year old son, I instinctively grabbed his hand…to keep him safe perhaps, yet also to keep him close to my heart. His heart responded with a gentle squeeze of my not-much-bigger hand. Just as I expected. And then almost immediately, as if his head screamed “HOLD ON! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??”, my sweet boy dropped my hand like a hot coal and said, “Mom I do not want to hold hands with you. I’m not a baby.”
That didn’t make me sad. It meant nothing and showed up for me simply as a sign of him becoming a young man. I get it. The part that got me, like in my gut, the thing that has me choked up right in this very moment, was me desperately, almost frantically, trying to recall the last time he willingly held my hand. Like held my hand proudly and all the way to the door. When was that? Was he 9? 8? When???
I immediately started searching the files in my mommy brain for the “lasts” for all of the kids. When was the last time my oldest daughter asked me to rub her back before falling asleep? Was she 12? I still recall her asking and me responding with “Not tonight, honey, I’m exhausted. Just get to bed please.” I was just so tired after working the night before and filling my day with urgency, important tasks and my to do list. I’m fairly certain that this happened repeatedly until one day, she simply. stopped. asking. But when was that? Even as I type this I feel anxious over the realization that I will never be able to find that file. It’s gone. Shredded.
If I could go back in time I would jump at the chance to rub her back. Wouldn’t I? Likely not, unless armed with the knowledge that only hindsight provides. The only time in my recent memory that I’ve had the opportunity to show her that simple gesture of affection without her pulling away, was while she was vomiting in my front seat as we pulled away from school and rushed home to the couch. The flu. Yes, maybe she could get the flu more often and I’d have another chance to make a moment a memory.
When was the last time my middle one asked me to let her paint my nails? Or braid my hair?
The moments we see as insignificant become the most significant things on earth, when we realize we’ve lost them forever. So how do we get beyond this? By shifting. Shifting into a place of gratitude and cherishing the memories without dwelling on whether or not they were “the last time” moments.