Treasure the moments

Tara Lister is determined to enjoy every second of every first before they become lasts.

The day my baby came home was a rude awakening. Until then I had been surrounded by midwives, advice and meals on demand, and I felt invincible. Cool, calm and collected; ready to take on the world. How quickly that evaporated as my tiny bundle of joy unleashed a burst of hysteria beyond  what I’d thought possible. I realised I lacked the skills to calm the storm.

Over the next few days I felt as if I’d been enveloped in a cloud. A whole new world unfolded before me. It took three months for the cloud to lift, but by then I was totally smitten. I had lost my heart to this little one. Many moments were spent basking in the warmth of the tiny body snuggled on my chest. Many dreams were dreamt about the future, picturing how my child might change the world. The future seemed so far away. I wanted the baby days to last forever, but babyhood morphs into toddlerhood, and baby days and sleepless nights are replaced by the sound of children’s laughter.

The list of firsts grows rapidly. First tooth, first food, first crawl, first step. First scratch, bump, clap, jump. But for each first there’s also a last; the last flip off my legs, the last tricycle ride, the last unexpected sleep in my arms. I become Mum instead of Mummy. The training wheels come off the bike, crayons are replaced by writing pencils.

Treasure-the-moments_smallThe lasts slip by unnoticed until the gap grows noticeable. I grieve, then let it go. Among those firsts and lasts comes another baby, followed by one more. Then, before I’m ready, child number one is off to school. Where has my toddler gone? The absence is soon overshadowed by the distractions of life. Did I see the significance of the moment? Days are filled with school runs, swimming and play dates at the park. And then I find myself walking to the car hand-in-hand with child number three, having seen number two off to school. I wonder where the days have gone. How could the time have gone so fast?

‘Lost’ doesn’t even begin to describe my first solo hours when number three starts school. I had so eagerly awaited this phase of life, but a sense of nakedness envelops me as I realise there are no little fingers intertwined with mine, no little voice crying “Mummy!”.

I had longed for these hours, and now they’re here I wonder where the time has gone. I remember building sandcastles in the summer sun and playing games of tag in the evening rain. Impromptu trips to the city and hours playing on the swings and slides in the park. The first time I heard “I love you Mummy” and the first tears of a skinned knee. I remember times I responded in anger and impatience, rather than love. Times in which I brushed aside precious moments. Why did someone not tell me these moments were so fleeting? That before I knew it they would be gone?

I wish I could capture those careless responses and enfold my words with love rather than irritation. I wish I could have seen the finite nature of time instead of longing for a future when those days would be done. I wish I knew then what I know now; the importance of treasuring each moment, because before you know it the moment is gone.

As I reflect on these things, I realise I still have moments to savour; little fingers running through my hair, for one. My normal insistence that my hair be released is forgotten – I know this won’t last forever.   I promise myself to treasure these times and always respond in love. I resolve to spend more time creating memories and less time dwelling on housework left undone. I resolve to take more pictures and spend less time worrying about what is to come. This resolve will be tested, I know. There will be times when my patience will be tried, irritation will abound and I will need to ask for forgiveness for failing to respond in the way I know I should. But these days will pass.

I look forward to the future, assured the best is yet to come. For now, however, I close my eyes and hold my child a little longer.

Carefree. Contented. Loved.

Illustrations by Shane McGowan