The Last Time I Put My Kids To Bed
A pep-talk on missed opportunities
Last night I laid in bed with my son while he fell asleep. It was the first time in almost two years. He’s eight years old now and likes his space, but last night he wanted my company. It was probably the last time that will happen.
When it comes to parenting, last times are inevitable. Dozens of experiences I once cherished will never happen again.
- The last time my kids ran to the door to greet me when I came home from work
- The last time I sat in their rooms until they fell asleep
- The last time I sang to my younger son when he woke up in the middle of the night
- The last time I spoon-fed them
We rarely remember those final experiences because we never know when they occur. They just happen, and then one day, something triggers a memory. You think, “oh yeah, I forgot about that.”
You realize you will never experience it again, and you kick yourself for not appreciating it when you had the chance.
When my son asked me to stay in bed with him as he fell asleep, I should have been happy. It was a chance to experience something I thought would never happen again.
Instead, it resulted in a melancholy feeling. It was perplexing at first, and then the self-talk manifested.
- How many other last experiences did I miss because I was too busy with other, less important things?
- How many other last experiences had I forgotten because I was too preoccupied to recognize the importance of these events when they occurred?
Sometimes you need a good pep talk, instead of a beat down
I know. I’m too hard on myself. You can drive yourself crazy picking apart every mistake you make as a parent. You’d grade yourself with an “F” when you tally up all the times you think you should have done better. Nobody escapes from parenting with a perfect record.
That’s the sobering logic I tell myself. The positive side of me offers a more optimistic perspective.
Before bed last night, I wrote in my journal to mark the date and details of my son’s bedtime; this was one final experience I saved for future reference. It’s there in blue ink — the last time I laid in bed with my son while he fell asleep.
Sure, I may have missed or forgotten most of the last times of my kids’ early years, but if I remember to journal about important and even mundane events in their lives, I’ll have a repository of memories to draw upon. I won’t have to wait for a random event to trigger a buried memory.
A world of “firsts” awaits
But that’s not all. As kids age, they transition from one stage to another. That means I can look forward to the many first time experiences still on the horizon:
- The first at-bat in little league
- The first time they walk home from school by themselves
- The first romantic crush
- The first time I lay awake at night hoping they return home safely
There are also firsts I can’t conceive of yet — ones they’ll choose themselves.
Parenting challenges you every day. If it doesn’t, you’re not trying hard enough. Don’t dwell on mistakes of the past. Pay attention to the present. Look forward to the future.
A solid pep-talk brings you perspective when you scold yourself for lack of perfection.