The Last Time

On our way to a concert in Chapel Hill my girls and I ran through the drive through at that Most Holiest of All Fast Food restaurants (you know the one). As we wound through the line and passed the gigantic glass-enclosed petri-dish called a play set, my daughter said “I wish we had known when it would be the last time we would played in one of those.”

If I’m honest, I had to choke back tears.

I’d been thinking about those very things a lot lately as my youngest rapidly approaches teendom, about all those “last times.” I’ve found myself paying attention to his voice, how it’s changing; to his laugh, how it’s one of the places that still has the little boy in it. I’ve been checking his height more often as he grows ever closer to my shoulder. Shouldn’t he still be at my hip? How did he get so tall?

Sometimes he will me to play hockey with him when I’m in the middle of working on something I want/need to do, and for a moment I feel the tug-o-war in my mind of “do-I or don’t-I”. But then I remember there will be a day he doesn’t ask anymore, and I won’t have known that this one was the last time.

Maybe it’s better that way. Maybe the awareness of the approaching “last time” is enough, if we keep it at the forefront. Perhaps it would make us a bit more present? I know I could use the help. It’s so easy to get caught in the minutia- to be overwhelmed with life and responsibility and things-to-do that we miss the gift of time with our kids, or with anyone we love. Because the truth is, regardless of age, we do not know when the “last time” will be for anything or anyone.

We don’t know it going in, but boy do we realize the last times when they come to pass. I can remember the last time I tucked each of my girls in at night and sang to them. Now my boy is the last one I do that ritual with every night. He still lets me sing the same song I sang to all three kids: “Jesus Loves Me.” Sometimes, when I’m tired, I think about skipping it, and then I realize it’s not going to last much longer. In fact, some day soon I imagine he’ll do the same thing his sisters did: stare at me with an uncomfortable look in his eye, a grimace on his face, and go “Daaaaaad…I’m too old for this.”

And I’ll walk out knowing that was the last time.

So I’m gonna sign off and go try to be present with my fam as they start a new day, whatever it holds. And tonight, I’ll tuck my boy in, sing to him, tell him I love him…and hope it’s not the last time.

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