"I'll have to wait 11 years before I have a kid-free New Year's Eve again," I overheard a wistful sounding mother say the other day. I felt one of those sentimental pangs you get when your child is no longer a toddler and you've embraced that smug 'older and wiser' satisfaction you probably don't deserve.
"Hang on to it while you can," I wanted to say to her, which would have been very odd and possibly a bit creepy because (I hope) she wasn't even aware I was eavesdropping on her conversation. It would also have been awful because I am not a fan of the smug, know-it-all kind who tell you how to nurture/care for/raise your kids. The worst is people telling you how you should feel, especially about your own kids.
But her words stuck with me for a reason. My issue wasn't about the fact that I wasn't having a kid free New Year's Eve -- in fact, it was quite the opposite. I didn't have a child with me this year and I had forgotten to even notice, let alone earmark, the last time I had spent New Year's Eve with him.
Last year he was with a friend and his friend's parents at a party. This year he was old enough to attend a party without parents.
Just like that, he's grown up. Just like that, I don't need to 'worry' about staying at home with him on New Year's Eve. Just like that, I don't have to work out plans around my young child because, just like that, I don't have a young child anymore.
How much have I missed in those years he was quickly growing up, becoming a teenager, moving closer to independence and further from his parents? How many 'lasts' have I missed without even thinking about them? How many conclusions to chores I used to curse about because they seemed like they'd never end?
- The last time I understood his homework
- The last time I had to book a babysitter when we went out at night
- The last time he let me choose clothes for him
- The last time I got to apply sunscreen (now I can only nag him to apply it himself)
- The last time I had to talk to his friends' parents to make plans for him
- The last time I got to decide what he should eat
- The last time I got to go into his bedroom and find him fast asleep AT NIGHT
- The last time I got to clean up his toys. Or even buy him toys
- The last time he agreed to come with his dad and me to a friend's house
- The last time he wanted to see a movie with us rather than with his friends
- The last time he asked us about anything without thinking he already knew the answer...
Don't think for a minute I want to go back to the days I couldn't go out because there was a small child to consider, but I wouldn't mind hanging on to the days right now.
A really smug mum once told me they grow up so quickly and I'd really miss those childhood years once they were gone. I hate to say it, but I think she was right.