Picking Up My Son for the Last Time

When you think of memorable parenting moments, what comes to mind are the firsts. You save first pairs of shoes, sometimes people save locks of hair from first haircuts, the real weirdos save the first teeth kids lose. Baby books are filled with pictures and dates of first steps, smiles, solid foods. First days of school are possibly the most recorded and archived events of a kid’s life. Part of it is because firsts are fun. They are moments of pride, of joy, of major celebration. Also, you can see them coming and can plan accordingly. What you don’t see coming, but are just as important, are the lasts.

My wife and I have decided to take down one of the sides of our two year-old son’s crib and get him used to sleeping in a big boy bed. I think he’ll be fine and it’s the right thing to do for his development, and I am happy for him. But at the same time, I’m a little sad for me. The next time I pick him up out of his crib will be the last.

A cute little boy sleeping in a crib

One of the best parts of my day is getting the little guy out of his crib in the morning. He is always happy to see me (except for the occasions he is specifically asking for his mommy), and unlike other times I pick him up he isn’t fighting it or squirming to get down. In those morning moments all he wants is to get picked up and I am the person he wants to do that for him. From the time he gets up to the time he decides what he wants for breakfast, I am providing everything he needs in his little world. Assuming I get around to taking that crib down tomorrow, that will only happen one more time.

At some point the day will come where I can’t pick him, or any of my kids up at all. My 6 year-old daughter just crossed the 50 pound mark, and while I can still pick her up, I can’t carry her around like I used to. The way I see it I have two options – stop feeding her, or get myself to the gym. I suppose getting myself stronger seems like a more responsible choice than a malnourished child. Also seems like a lot more work. These are the tough parenting choices nobody tells you about before you have kids.

While picking up my kids is a last that I can do my best to delay, it will happen eventually, and I probably won’t know the last time is the last until after it happens. I didn’t know when the last feeding happened, and I won’t know the last adorable mispronunciation when it happens (he calls his sister Evie “wee-wee”), but the last pick up out of the crib is on my timeline now, not his. Maybe I’ll take it down tomorrow, maybe I’ll take it down when he is eleven, who knows.

Now that I know it will be the last time and I”ll be prepared to savor every second of it, of course he’ll have a poopy diaper, or will be screaming, or will want his mommy and not me, or quite possibly all of the above. Makes me think about the hundreds of times I’ve picked him up without even thinking about it. Or any of the other little things throughout the day that are so easy to blow past, or think of as just something you need to do, or maybe even something that feels like an inconvenience. A little thing here and a little thing there as you go about your day, but what is life but a collection of little things with only a few biggies sprinkled in?

There are a handful of holidays to celebrate each year, and only one birthday per kid, but little kids need help wiping their butt every day. One day my daughter will ask for help and I’ll find her in the bathroom waiting patiently with her little butt sticking up in the air for the last time, and I won’t know it until who knows how long goes by. Not as fun or adorable as getting a sleepy-eyed toddler out of a crib, to be sure, but another little moment with my kids that will disappear.

I get it, kids grow up. I was a kid once and I (mostly) grew up. You know going into parenthood that there is impermanence to it, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. But in this case, I’ll look on the bright side of knowing exactly when the last time to get him out of bed will be. So I’ll do three things – savor the moment of getting him out of bed one last time in the morning, take his crib down in the evening, and get to the gym and lift some weights. The kids aren’t getting any smaller, and I’ve still got picking up to do.

UPDATE: I was sitting on the couch when I heard him call out for me this morning. This was it. I told myself to savor the moment, to take it all in. I walked to his room and said good morning. He sat in his crib and pointed to some cars that were sitting on the floor of his room. “Cars,” he said.

“Ready to get up buddy?” I asked.

“Cars!” he responded.

I prepared myself for a good squeeze and bent over and picked him up out of his crib. As soon as I got him up he was squirming to get down. “Cars!” he insisted. I didn’t fight it.

So there you have it. My last time picking up my little guy out of his crib was thwarted by a couple of Matchbox cars on his floor. A cherished memory for dad just can’t compete with a blue Jeep. Little jerk.

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