When I first held my baby daughter, it felt like I would have forever with her. And in those early days, when you had to stand by every second to make sure your baby wouldn’t stick her finger in an electrical socket when you looked away or rolled off the changing table when you reached for a diaper — it definitely felt like parenting was going to go on forever.

But as any parent will tell you, in the grand scheme of things, that “forever” is really just a too-short 18 years, and they go by in a blink of an eye.

At first, the milestones are big celebrations — the first time they sleep through the night, the first time they crawl, their first word. They are things that help make parenting easier and more joyful (who doesn’t love to be called Mama by a babbling baby?). You get to watch your little one’s personality develop, and you get to relive a little of that sense of wonder as you explore something new to them through their eyes.

Soon, though, you realize that with each amazing first comes a corresponding last. And so many last times passed with my daughter without me realizing they had happened. The last time she drank from a bottle. The last time I carried her up the stairs. The last time she sat for a bedtime story. The last time she came into my room for a snuggle after a nightmare. The last time she held my hand as we made our way to her school. The last time she lost a tooth (her dentist was the one who noted that milestone for me).

And slowly, the parenting milestones have become even more bittersweet, as they mark the changes that make her a full-fledged adult, ready (hopefully!) to face the world on her own. Her first boyfriend. Her driver’s license (who knew I would miss those talks during carpool so very much?). Her first job. Her first college acceptance — at a school too far away to let her live at home. Which means we’re now preparing for a life without her under our roof.

We were even granted a bit of a reprieve in the march toward adulthood. The year we all lost to COVID was a year where we were able to spend so much more time together as a family than we would have spent otherwise. We definitely missed so much then — the whirlwind of activities and friends and to-dos and adventures — but we didn’t miss out on each other, as we built game nights and movie nights and try-a-new-food nights into our calendar to make up for the gaps. And though it was in so many ways one of the most difficult years of our lives, it will always be a treasured year for that extra time with my daughters.

But that makes all of these last times feel even more difficult now, as they pile up so quickly. It feels like every day brings a new one. Life is again happening at fast forward, and I’m feeling every single last: from the last first day of school to the silly ones, like our last “Chez Fancy,” a faux restaurant we made up to celebrate Valentine’s Day when the girls were little, where we still serve them mac and cheese and chocolate fondue with fancy dining flair. I’ve spent so much of this year fighting back tears, knowing what I’m about to lose.

It’s the hardest part for every parent — knowing that if we do our job well, our children will leave us and won’t need us anymore. That the tiny baby we held will become an independent and capable person who won’t always turn to us for solace or support, because they’ve got it handled on their own.

We live across the street from the elementary school, the same school that my daughters attended what feels like a lifetime ago. I see the parents there every day at 3:30, shepherding their little ones around the playground, hefting backpacks and lunchboxes. I want to tell them to savor every moment, every time that those kids run out to hug them at the end of the school day, make them a special drawing, or hold their hand as they cross the street. Every time they tell one of those rambling stories about something that happened at school that takes forever to wrap up.

Because all too soon, there will be a last time for each of those moments — and believe it or not, you will miss them dearly when they’re gone.

I’d heard the same things myself all those years ago. That with parenting, the days are long, but the years are short. And I tried my very best to savor every hour and every day that I’ve had … but it all went by way, way too fast.

 

These celeb parents have gotten very real about their kids growing up.

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