I'm Pausing to Celebrate the Firsts and Lasts of My Parenthood Journey
Anyone who has ever screeched "Nants ingonyama bagithi baba" while holding their baby over their head understands the circle of life. We are born, we grow up, grow old, and then eventually…well, we've all seen that part with Simba's dad too, right?
For every person on their way out of this world, someone's on their way in. It's a beautiful, cyclical journey, and we're all part of it as humans and as parents. And the truth of the matter is, we don't even realize when we're moving from one cycle to the next. It just sort of happens one day, like changing your first diaper. You pick up a pack one day, and before you know it, that's your life.
There's likely been a point where you felt like your life revolved around them. I've got four kids, and I'm here to tell you that for me it was like swimming through a sea of Pampers for a decade. Even though I practically lived under a stack of baby wipes, I never stopped to think about the fact that those babies—those sweet, tiny, peanut-butter scented cherubs—might be changing my diaper someday.
The last diaper change in our house happened like most of our lasts. As unceremoniously as the last time I'd physically be able to pick one of my babies up or when they last used a sippy cup. I didn't mark it on a calendar or send a picture to the family group chat. It came and went without celebration or acknowledgment—blurred, perhaps, by a fact that we were moving on to bigger and better things. We wouldn't need that stroller anymore, we can buy regular cups again, oh-look-we-get-to-help-you-wipe-now!
Last month I was at Target wandering as aimlessly as one does when they have an hour of kid-free shopping time. I was halfway down the baby food aisle before it dawned on me. Our pureed veggie days are over and done. No diapers, wipes, or onesies necessary. In fact, that whole section of the store is useless to me. Somewhere along the way that piece of our daily life just disappeared.
That's when it hit me. My eldest is almost 12 now. She doesn't need me to wash her hair or cut up her dinner. I don't tie her shoes anymore, and she doesn't ask me to button the shirt on her school uniform. Those lasts came and went without me even realizing it.
In fact, she's feeling less and less like a kid all the time. Which means I'm feeling less and less like a parent all the time. She's not interested in binging Bluey or Paw Patrol with her younger sisters. She's upgraded, demanding we spend our Saturday mornings watching Gilmore Girls and begging me for spoilers. And what's more surreal than all of this is the fact that she's taken an active interest in what I'm doing.
She's become part of my non-parenting life. Like stealing books off my shelf to read instead of coloring in the pages. Last week she offered amazing plot advice on the book I'm writing, then spent hours helping me print marketing materials for the one coming out this month. Not because she was asked to, but because she wanted to.
Things, like they always do, have changed.
I think about the way that she'll move out someday. She'll be an adult living on her own in the world, and calling me about as often as I call my mom—I really need to do that today—and she's going to exist without my reminders to brush her teeth or do her homework. Those lasts will be long gone.
Then there's going to be a day when, like with my parents, she's helping me in bigger ways. Like setting up the internet or figuring out how to sell crafts on Etsy. By that point, I'll have taught her all the things I needed to about being a good person, and she'll be knee-deep in diapers and trying to teach her own kids those lessons. And when we watch Gilmore Girls, it'll be as friends—provided she's not Team Logan, of course.
Someday, decades from now, she'll have to come over and drive me to doctor's appointments. Maybe she'll help tie my shoes and button my shirts. And if I'm lucky, if I'm around long enough, she might even be swimming in a sea of my diapers.
We should celebrate all the moments of that beautiful, tragic, wonderful circle of life. Not just the beginnings or the milestones, but those overlooked endings and even the stages we might have even hated. One day we'll all wake up and realize we aren't quite their parents anymore, not in the same way, but now we're friends, and before we know it that'll have come to an end as well. And that sweet baby—who you couldn't possibly lift like Simba anymore—will be taking care of you.