The first sight of snowdrops is always a welcome one. They are the first flowers to bloom along the hedges of my garden adding magical sparkle to the drab lawn. Though the weather may argue to the contrary with its surprise snow flurries, the snowdrop promises that winter’s spell will soon be broken and spring is on her way.
As spring has arrived, the snowdrops have welcomed the first blossoms, and delicate crocuses and daffodils dance along the hedgerows. The Easter holidays are a mixed blessing with three energetic girls to entertain. The first proper sunny days have enabled us to get out into the countryside and play in the previously waterlogged garden. While I potter noticing the little details, the reflections in puddles and new buds bursting from every branch, my daughters run, splash and explore in a bid to keep my washing machine busy. My middle child’s method for testing the depth of puddles is to jump straight into the middle then check how far over her wellies it comes. Invariably she squelches home leaving a watery trail.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been to watch two of my daughters sing for the first time in a public concert. Both were proud-mummy moments. From the the back of a huge arena, out of 7500 children, my friend and I spotted our two girls. Despite them being just tiny dots of light, we instinctively knew our daughters from their eclectic dance moves and the way they interacted with each other. My cheeks were aching from grinning and my palms stinging from clapping by the end of it. The atmosphere of fifteen thousand proud parents and excited children was quite amazing. I documented this first with dozens of shaky distant photos, you can’t make out anyone but I know where she is.
As we left the arena to get our train home, we discussed how our girls were growing up so quickly. My friend told me of a poem he’d seen about last times. It seemed quite poignant to consider this as we celebrated their first concert.
The Last TimeFrom 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,Whining and 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 will feed your babyfor the very last time.They will fall asleep on you after a long dayAnd it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.One day you will carry them on your hip,then set them down,And never pick them up that way again.You will scrub their hair in the bath one nightAnd from that day on they will want to bathe alone.They will hold your hand to cross the road,The 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 for this.One afternoon you will sing ‘the wheels on the bus’and do all the actions,Then you’ll never sing 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 yourlast dirty face.They will one day run to you with arms raised,for the very last time.The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last timeuntil there are no more times, and even then,it will take you a while to realise.So while you are living in these times,remember there are only so many of them andwhen they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.For one last time.Author unknown
The school holidays has also been responsible for covering the house in glitter and paint. Lazy, rainy days lend themselves to craft and painting activities. Clumsy fingers spill paint and trail it through the house leaving hand prints on walls that show just how tall they’ve grown since the last school holidays. Evidence of every activity and meal is wiped down clothing, adding to the ever growing washing pile. I sigh as I follow a trail of destruction, mess and random sticky patches and I try to remember that there will come a time when they don’t want to sit and paint with me or do junk modelling. One day they will laugh at my suggestion to go on a puddle-stomping walk across the fields and will prefer instead to hang out with friends.
I have documented all their firsts: first steps, first words (‘Daddy’ for all three despite efforts to train them to say ‘Mummy’) and their first days at nursery and school. I watch out for these special milestones and take a million photographs to mark the occasion. I don’t notice the lasts though. I never realised the last time I fed my littlest that it was the last time. I don’t remember the last time I pushed each in the buggy or the baby swings at the park. When my girls climb into our bed in the middle of the night for cuddles, warming their icy toes on my leg and stealing the duvet, I need to cherish the sleepy snuggles instead of wearily counting the minutes of lost sleep. I need to remember that this may be the last time they need the comfort of cuddles and kisses to soothe the nightmares away.
As my carefree girls enjoy rambling down pastel hedgerows to splash in the stream or play in the sunshine, it’s with mixed feelings I prepare for the first day back at school. My house will soon be a lot tidier and quieter but I’m going to miss all the giggles and cuddles. Every stage of childhood is so fleeting and precious. Older parents constantly remind new mums to cherish every moment but it’s easy to forget as they grow older. I’ve no doubt their antics will drive me mad but for every frustration I need to take a moment to appreciate the little things because you never know when it will be a last time.