lost teeth and tied shoes

The other day before I left for work I gave my daughter’s loose tooth a little wiggle.
A few minutes after settling into my chair, turning on my computer while waiting for my email to upload, I heard my phone ding. I looked down and there was a picture with my daughter with a gap between her bottom teeth. I made a mental note to make sure I got some cash on the way home. And caught myself confused at what I was feeling. Excited for her but also sad. I wrote off the bitter part of the bittersweet as feeling that I had missed it even though I knew it had more to do with her growing up than me missing out. I couldn’t wait for my son’s first tooth to finally fall out. It seemed to take forever and took all my patience not to yank it out too soon.  It  finally happened when I hadn’t been there either. In the car with his dad on their way to NASA while I stayed behind hoping his little sister would nap so I could get back to the beach. I was nothing but ecstatic when getting that text. With Tess it seems too soon. Too early. Something inside me screaming “not yet”. 

I also recently registered her for kindergarten. I can not wait for the raise that comes after I write my last check for childcare. She is so ready for kindergarten…and I am so ready for one pick up and drop off and for her to stop being forced to take naps so that she will go to bed before me on the weeknights….That I was caught a little off guard by the wave of emotion that fell over me as I started my car in the elementary school parking lot after dropping off her shot records and filling out all those forms.

And the other day she told me she knew how to tie her own shoes. Since my son (who is almost 9) has barely mastered this skill, I assumed this was a typical Tess exaggeration. Like the way she counts to 100. By going 1, 2, 3, 4, …100. Or that she would tie it into a million knots like she did my own tennis shoes not too many weeks ago.  So I am surprised when she sits down and makes two bunny ears and pulls them through into a weak but passable knot.

I’m not the overly sappy mother. I encourage my kids to do what they can themselves. They make their own more jelly than peanut butter sandwiches, dress themselves (much to my dismay sometimes when I pick them up),  order for themselves at restaurants (this backfired when my son order lobster while out with my inlaws) and have a few simple chores. 
We all have things we want our kids to be. 
And ultimately I want to raise kind, brave, generous kids who love God and but also ones that will eventually move out of my house! In other words…I am attempting to teach them to be independent, have opinions, ask questions, resolve their own conflicts, have their own experiences, lose the training wheels, and apparently tie their own shoes. 

My kids lives are marked by firsts. These are the kinds of things we write in baby books. Well, clearly I am not the kind of mom that can keep up with a baby book…but if I did I’d record things like first words, first haircuts, first steps. Their childhoods are marked by firsts like little sharpie lines on the doorframe they keep moving upward. First days of school. First folder signings. First recitals. First goals scored. And oh my little 3rd grade son…. with his first “girlfriends”. I do not even want to think about first kisses. 

But motherhood is marked by lasts. The last time they need help with their seatbelt. The last time you can spell out words without them knowing what you are saying. The last time they insist that you read Goodnight Moon 427 times before they go to sleep. The last time you they let you hold their hand in the parking lot or refuse to go into the women’s restroom because at school they only go into the boys.  Often the lasts go by a bit unnoticed. They are not celebrated like a lost tooth and left under your pillow. They are just lost. Like the last time an “a” gets tacked onto the end of my name. And suddenly, just like that “momma” is just mom.

Tess is my last born. 
So these firsts and lasts that keep getting tangled together are weighing a little bit heavier on me than they did the first time around. I celebrate her lost tooth. I will do the happy dance when I write my last childcare check. And I can not even begin to fathom the joy of not having to tie another shoe, put another straw in a capri sun or having to wrestle my kids into bed at night. I do not miss for one second my last diaper, the last time I desperately hunted for a pacifier, spit up stains on my only clean shirt or waking up 12 times in the middle of the night ( I wish I was exaggerating on the 12 times…but there is a reason that this is my last child). But. Then there are other lasts.
The last time my kids smell like lavender baby wash.
The last time I carry them to their beds where I don’t feel like I need a back brace from the weight of them. 
The last time I strap them into the car seat to drive them around and pray that they fall asleep before I do.

First lost tooth.
Last days of preschool.
It is bittersweet.
Firsts mean my kids are growing. Becoming exactly who it is that God has made them to be…but it means more lasts are on the horizon as well. It is in my nature as a mother to hold on to the lasts. To stretch them out just a little bit longer. To hang on. 
Lasts remind me it is time to let go. Just a little bit more.
The truth is my kids are 8 and 5.
I’m not letting them go anywhere except maybe to play in the yard unattended. 
Which to be honest petrifies me a little and is a newish first for me as well…but finding myself with these new reclaimed moments to read or watch a TV show or cook dinner without “help” (read the opposite of help), having to answer a million questions or breaking up fights is worth the teensy bit of worry that they are breaking their leg on the trampoline that creeps in while I load the dishwasher.  

As my kids gain some independence and autonomy I am gaining a bit of mine back as well. In short spurts. 20 minutes here. A sleepover there. I read books without pictures. I watch movies without talking animals. I have meals in restaurants where you order with out number. I sleep for 5 hours straight before the dog wakes me up to go outside. Four years ago I would have traded my left arm for an hour to read, I would have cried tears of joy at the prospect of three straight hours of uninterrupted sleep. 

Instead today, I wipe away unexpected tears as I pull out of the parking lot for kindergarten registration. As I slip a dollar under my daughter’s pillow. And as she makes sloppy loops and loose knots on her own tennis shoes.