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I Never Realized It Was Over Until It Was

Well, it happened. That moment of self-realization as a parent that everyone talks about, and yet still it caught me completely off guard. It was late at night, the rest of the kids were already in bed and I was up with my older two who are now 10 and 11 years old. My son, a sturdy 11-year-old almost-man was on the couch and we were getting silly so I pulled him onto my lap to hug him goodnight. And by pull I mean I dragged, hefted, and strained to lift him up.

By the time I finally held him in my arms, we were both laughing uncontrollably at the fact that he had grown so much (that or I had grown weaker). And then it hit me. One minute I was laughing and saying, “I remember when you were born,” and the next I broke.

I am not much of a cryer you guys, I tend to be goofy and funny or deep in thought with not much in between. These were no gentle, quiet tears… it was a full-out ugly cry and I just couldn’t stop. Hiccuping, shaking, sobbing, the torrent poured out of me, “I can’t even remember the last time I held you!” Looking over at my kids I saw the tears in their eyes as we all realized something both beautiful and tragic… it was gone.

It was over

Holding them in my arms and singing them lullabies, marvelling at their first sounds and coos and laughs, the first steps and dance parties in the living room. The cute little toddler voices and the way they pronounced their words. Falling asleep in my arms, losing their first teeth. Just like that, it was all over and I hadn’t even realized it. I watched it flash before my eyes, the memories both painful and sweet and so many lost memories along the way.

The should haves, the could haves, the might have beens. How often I pushed aside the moment because I was tired or frustrated or overwhelmed. Until the moments are no longer there for the taking and all I have are the memories.

How can I be both so proud of who they are becoming and yet be so heartbroken at what we’ve left behind? It’s over half done! I can never go back. I’ve made so many mistakes, and as I looked into their eyes and saw nothing but future, I was so so sad.

They are not little anymore. Sure, they aren’t adults, I still have time with my kids. And yet they are their own little people with their own personalities and preferences and struggles and wants. The shaping years are primarily behind us and everything that stands in front of us is independence.

Time is running out.

My youngest is already five. I have no second chances. There will be no more baby snuggles or baby smell, no more adorable first words or falling asleep in my arms. The stage has been set, and like it or not, the play continues to go forward.

As I sit here writing, tears streaming down my face, I feel like a piece of ice floating in the middle of the ocean. I cannot salvage or change the past and I don’t know what the future holds.

Here’s the thing

In this life, we get tired. We make mistakes, we don’t value what we have until it is gone. I had heard the warnings, I had read the articles of mothers before me who had had this moment for themselves. But the reality is, we are all trying our best to survive the chaos, to trudge our way through the mud of the everyday struggles. We can only do what we can do.

So to the mothers after me, still in the midst of babies and toddlers and preschool chaos, take a deep breath. There are so many things vying for your attention. Your house will never stop calling to you, there will always be distractions and busyness. Some of it is necessary, unescapable. All you can do now is treasure the moments. Not all the moments, we can never fully see the beauty of today until tomorrow. It is the way of humanity.

Instead, slow down just a little, write down a few of those memories, capture them in your heart, store them up. You will have regrets, you will have your own day just like mine, but as you continue to walk forward you will remember the times you marvelled at your kids. You will remember the times that you stopped looking at your phone and took in their enthusiastic explanations. You will remember the way they looked into your eyes while you nursed them or played with your hair while you snuggled with them.

These memories will be your treasure and your pain. So incredibly priceless and beyond value because of their rarity… because they are gone forever.

Slow down, take time

Comments

  1. It’s true…they grow…you cry…you move on…you share…you teach…you raise them up as God instructs…you pray…ohhhh you pray! Out of 8, half are married, another one or two are not far behind…just the last two at home will be home after those, for a few precious years. As I watch the 19 year old breaching on marriage, the 25 year old finally believing he has found “the one”, to the 15 year old on the breach of adulthood, but still a tender, gentle soul struggling to “belong” & the baby…the 13 year old hyper streak…stubborn, challenging & so gentle hearted. I watch them grow…I pray for their older siblings & spouses…the ones sitting waiting while their 1 year old gets tubes in his ears & wait to soon see who their next child is gonna be, I pray as the other son sits with his wife waiting to hear the next update on his wifes cancer update, & encourage our daughter in love who is in the midst of toddler/ kidhood, with 3 littles who run her ragged, but bless her as well-she took one piece of advice from me…get a notebook…write those special phases down, cherish the chaos, live… God Bless your journey!

  2. Im bawling now!
    Just had baby #3 2 weeks ago and we’ve made the decision that she is our last!
    All my hormones are wrecked and sloshing me around reading this!!!
    It’s beautiful…and MOTIVATING.
    Thanks, Rebecca, for the reminder to slow down and appreciate.

  3. So beautifully written and definitely words i could have written myself. Thank you for always sharing your heart with us!

  4. Beautifully written. We’ve decided that we are not done with having children just yet however. I’m hoping to have a 2019 or 2020 baby. Not decided yet though. My first two children are two years old now.
    I’ve always craved a big family as well. I love homeschooling my children. It’s a tough hard decision to make isnt it? So many questions and things to consider as well.

  5. I shed a couple tears after this post. I am 500 days from one of mine being 18. And my middle just turn 4 and my baby just turned one. I think she is our last but sometimes I get sad. Everything you said is right. I am trying to build my blog but slowing down and enjoy the little ones sometimes I forget. My teen changed and our realtionship is so distant. It’s hard being a mom when they grow and change. I wish I could slow the clock down.

  6. Wow! This moved me to tears!!! Thank you for the reminder that we can’t have these moments back. We need to treasure our time with our kids, because life doesn’t have a replay button..

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  8. So sweet!

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  9. Holy smokes this is good. Shouldn’t have read in public though- don’t want to cry at the coffee shop. Thank you for your perfect insight. So true. I try to do it all at once. Constantly. Thanks for the reminder to slow it down.

  10. GURLLLLL!! It’s coming like a freight train at high speed!!! My 16 year old just left for the first day of 11th grade! Yes (gulp, sniffle) only ONE more first day of school after today!!! But that wasn’t even the hardest part. He is a driver now, all be it in my hubbies 20 yrs old car, but this morning, he drove himself to school…I watched my first born, my only son, slowly pull out of the driveway. He gave me a little crocked grin and a wave, and there he went..and there I stood with this overwhelming sense of sadness that he didn’t NEED me anymore. Now I know good and well he NEEDS me more now than ever, otherwise he would eat and dress poorly, have zero manners, and not know to open a door for a lady (we started in the preschool years on that one). OH ME, OH MY!! No more car lines, no more seeing the kids pour out of the school at final bell, no more “How was your day?” “Good!”. Honestly, I may have to take the keys back for a couple days just to appreciate the last rides with my boy to school. Yes, he is in public school, only started homeschooling a younger sibling last year. We have new adventures to cherish, and so will I with my son as he continues on the path God has planned for him. But like you, I never realized it was over till it was.

  11. Man, did I have my moment. Many moments like this where I just struggle to accept it at times. Especially the two older ones, as I was younger and inmature when they were babies and really disvalued time and now with my baby, 5, I dont get to enjoy her because the older ones really just suck all my time from me. Its hard to accept and its hard to remember when they were babies and because they don{t get emotional about those memories, I have to enjoy them alone. They were so sweet as babies, but not wanting independence, as it seems the next thing for them to do, they don{t get emotional about the past like when they were little. They instinctly know they are one the way out and that hurts too.

  12. Just read your post. Soooo many fun memories. Still making them. Just came back yesterday from a reunion with them all and their spouses. My kids are all grown. The stories I have produced for the airlines and other venues were their bedtime stories. Every night Ronda would tub the kids at 7. Then I would come in and play chase and rile them up and she would get mad and then I would lay down on their beds and tell them the Tales of Davy Jones and “Quetzalcoatl” the Feathered Serpent being rescued by “Garrett Spencer.” 2nd son is Garrett Spencer Gundestrup. I’d tell them about “A Knight in Atlantas” a 7 ft warrior named Sir Christian Thomas Richard and his son Mckay. My Oldest son is Christian Mckay. I told them about “Falling Rock” a Cherokee warrior. I want everyone’s kids to enjoy and learn the lessons that my kids learned from these stories. The world is a rough place. My stories helped my kids know what to expect and to be ready to face the world. Bully’s – bad breaks – mean people – nice people – misunderstood people – life isn’t fair and was never intended to be. Get used to it. I love kids. Coached baseball – basketball – Church youth. Nothing in the world better than seeing a kid succeed even if it is a small success. That confidence is crucial to a successful life. You’re doing a great job! In a world full of “ME” it is great to see real parents who have the maturity to place their children 1st in their lives. Between video games – pornography – in gratitude and lack of a hard work ethic I fear for the next generation and the generation after them. I hope and pray we can save enough of them so THEY can save the world.

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