The first last time

Posted Friday 20th February 2015   By Ericka Waller

So my eldest daughter can read. I am not sure when it happened, but she is doing it. She reads labels on packets, adverts, road signs, books I leave next to the bath. Her favourite author is Enid Blyton. She is collecting all of St Clares, Malory Towers, Famous Five and Naughtiest Girl. I remember reading them for the first time, getting the books from the library, the sound of the stamp as the clerk checked them out, the smell of the yellow pages. Once, my eldest brother “accidentally” pushed me down the stairs. His Famous Five collection bought my silence, and my bed was a balm for the bruises. Lost in “Five on Treasure Island” I felt no pain, I was too busy paddling in the sea.

I find my daughter books on ebay, or in old junk shops. I want them to smell like mine did. Last week I found her a beaten up old bookcase to store them all in. She looked at me like I had given her the moon.  Maybe I had, by encouraging her love for reading, she will always have a world to escape to. Is there anything better than being lost in a good book at the end of a bad day?

I have always felt torn between wanting my daughters to stay babies forever and impatiently wanting them to be older, to see them swan-like, taking form, spreading wings, the extent of my creations.

This weekend I lay in bed with my daughter and we read our books in companionable silence. It’s a little memory I shall tuck somewhere in my mind and keep forever. For the first time I saw life as a mum of older children. The joy of shared interests. I could listen to her talk about the books she is reading forever.

But I am so very lucky that in the same house I still have my beloved three-year and four year-olds. Skin like butter, baby demands, naked cuddles after the bath, breath on my face as they sleep tightly next to me, because I’m still so not ready to leave these days behind.

A friend posted a poem on my Facebook wall this week, when I did not know that it was the last time my daughter would ask me to read to her.  What other last times are coming my way?

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms
You will never be the same
You might long for the person you were before
When you had freedom and time
And nothing in particular to worry about
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before
And days will run into days that are exactly the same
Full of feeding and burping
Nappy changing and crying
Whining or fighting
Naps or lack of naps
It might seem like a never-ending cycle

But don’t forget…
There is a last time for everything
There will come a time when you feed
your baby for the very last time
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child
One day you will carry them on your hip and set them down
And never pick them up that way again
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone
They will hold your hand to cross the road
Then never reach for it again

They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this
One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again

They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times
And even then, it will take you a while to realise

So when you are living in these times
remember there are only so many of them
and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them
For one last time

Author unknown –

My girls