Do You Remember The Last Time?

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I realized the other day that I can’t remember the last time I picked up my oldest daughter. Sometime between yesterday and my memory, I put her down and haven’t picked her up since. The funny thing is that I knew this was coming. I read this poem when I was a brand new mother, and every step along the way I’ve wondered, “Is this it? Is this the last time?”

We focus so much on the firsts, but it’s really the lasts that are so poignant. They sneak up on us, and I at least, don’t anticipate them as much as I do the firsts.

This one was particularly bittersweet, though. For as long as I can remember, my oldest daughter goes through spurts of wanting to start out the night in my bed. I’ve cradled her tiny body as I carried her back to her bed each night, feeling it slowly getting heavier and longer. The squish of a toddler disppeared, and a kid slowly emerged. Her body, once so intertwined with my own, is becoming autonomous.

More and more, it’s becoming her’s alone.

When my girls were little, the line between them and me was so blurred. They wanted to be as close to me as possible. It was exhausting, but it also filled a cup I didn’t know was empty.

Slowly, they’ve learned personal space. Boundries. They want privacy now when they change, and they want to sit next to me on the couch instead of right on top of me. Which is why the sweet, in-between moments of carrying a sleeping child to their bed is so grounding to me. For just a few minutes, as they sleep, they are once again apart of me, and I them.

As a photographer, and a mother, I strive to hold onto those feelings as much as I can. I want to create photographs of family life that aren’t just about what a family looks like - though that is important, too - I want to create photographs that are about what those moments feel like.

I want to create tangible memories of things that disappear before you know it.

You may not be a photographer, but I think you can probably relate, as a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. As a human. Things change, and we often don’t know they’ve changed until it’s too late.

If I had known that the last time I carried her to bed would be the last time… would I have done anything different? Probably not. Because the sweetness of parenthood comes in the beautiful, mundane moments. I wouldn’t have wanted to change anything, because if I had, well, it wouldn’t be the same. But, I do wish I had a photograph of something that represents that moment. A visual reminder of what I know: that my entire job is to love them fiercely, so that someday they have the courage to step away from me.

To be a mother is to let those lasts wash over you, and meet them with equal parts joy and sadness. Because with every last, is a new first. My oldest may not need me to carry her to bed anymore, but she’s also learning to read. She’s learning to tell jokes, bad though they are. She’s learning to help make dinner. She’s learning empathy and responsiblity, and it’s an amazing thing to be apart of. The time I spend with her is becoming less about entertaining her, and more about learning about her.

She’s becoming an individual before my eyes, and that is an amazing, humbling thing to see.

Hug your babies, my friends, no matter how old they are. And find a way to hold on to what you won't even know is gone, until it's gone.

 


 

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