Lasts Are Beautiful

My mom was the queen of the "Rise and SHINE!"- lights bright all at once and all the loudness...every day. I wasn't the easiest kid to wake up in the mornings, and she did her best. It was her way, and I love her. To this day, I need about 37 alarms to get me up. If I were my mom, I probably would have just doused me with cold water. Bless her.

It may sound silly, but this has shaped the way I wake my boys. I just know it's one of those things they will remember, and it's important to me. I can still hear my mama's voice in my head with her daily beckoning to rise and shine, and it makes me smile every time. And so, even though I do it differently, I have a very specific way I wake the boys up every day. It's peaceful and one of my favorite times of the day. I open the blinds slowly, and always take a few minutes just to look at them...I swear they grow overnight. Their gentle breaths rising and falling, their faces sweet and quiet, it's a perfect start for my day. I wake Jonah first, because he is easy. I rub his hair until he wakes up, and I greet him with a "Good morning, sunshine." He wakes up with a smile and those eyes full of tenderness. He gets right up, and attacks the day. Even though the boys share a room, Ezra is still sound asleep when I finish waking Jonah. This is a fete, y'all, because they have bunk beds. Who can sleep through someone getting off the top bunk?! Ezra. That's who. Ezra is truly my child, in so many ways. I fear for his future for this reason. I have to snuggle him, and ever so gently wake him up to avoid the beast, as I've come to call the other side of Ez. One wrong move, and the morning goes south.

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Today was one of those mornings...I snuggled down into his bed, and just stared at him, taking him in. He is growing so fast, this baby of mine. Normally, he will wake up and at least be happy that I'm there. Today, he woke up sad and immediately crying. "I just don't want to get up right away. And I don't want to go to school right away, mama. Why do I need to go so early? I just don't want to go to school." Cue dramatic tears. Now keep in mind that the boys are only in school three days per week, so it's not like he has a terribly long week ahead. But also keep in mind that this is their first year ever in any type of school, daycare, anything, that he's four, and that he's my baby. My very last baby. And while school has been a wonderful blessing, it has been a really tough adjustment for all of us. Namely me. I was the one crying drop off for three weeks, not Ezra. The homeschool mom that lives inside of me has massive guilt about sending the boys to school. The million questions that plague me on a daily basis about whether we did the right thing or not  immediately started running through my head. Now I know that ultimately we did do the right thing- we did what God was calling us to do, but that doesn't always make it easy. And my baby was crying that he didn't want to LEAVE me. Did I mention he's my baby? Now I'm aware enough that I couldn't just let him stay home because he doesn't want to go (right?). That teaches no responsibility. So I put on my adult hat and I told him we could snuggle for five minutes, then go downstairs and have some breakfast and reevaluate. After a bowl of cereal (it was organic, relax) and the enticement of half a doughnut on the way (totally not organic and full of sugar, sorry Mrs. Charles), he forgot that he didn't want to go to school. But I didn't. I took him, hugging him extra tight at drop off, sad to not be with him for the day.

Combine a slow work day with feeling all the feels about my baby, and you have a recipe for emotional disaster. So I was in the boys' room putting away laundry, and while folding what felt like a giant pair of size 4T pants I became so overwhelmed with reality that I had to just stopped dead in my tracks. Ezra is my last. And all of his firsts are my lasts. I have folded my last pair of tiny baby pants, worn my last baby, put away my last onesies, and buying swaddle blankets and tiny shoes are no longer a part of my life. I have watched my last baby smile for the first time, seen my last take his first steps, seen my children off to their last first ever day of school, and flown by so many other firsts and lasts without even thinking. How many have I missed with out even realizing it? I have smelled my last milky newborn lips, and heard my last midnight cries. Cue the dramatic tears. (See, Ezra is like me!)

I'm not sure why sometimes these things hit me harder than others, but it's always the little things that send me over the emotional cliff. Andrew has been saying we are finished having babies for years now, but I never thought we were. Until recently, I was convinced there would be more little Rowes. Something is shifting in me, and suddenly I feel so content and at peace with the two children we already have, and I know we are finished. Our family is complete. We can't just keep having babies, and I don't think that's what God has for us. What baffles me is how heart-wrenching that is. I no longer have bins of baby clothes in my garage waiting for the next tiny baby to fill them, the rattles have been replaced with Legos, and the diapers and nursing bras are long gone. I'm still clinging to my BOB because I convince myself I need it...even though both boys ride a bike with ease and no training wheels. Why does it hurt so bad to let go?

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I  sat on Ezra's bed and sniffed his blankey feeling extra guilty that I hadn't just let him stay home today, and fighting the urge to race to the school and pick him up. I let the tears fall. I ugly cried, my heart full of the ache that he is my last. It's funny (odd, not haha) that I don't ache because I want more babies. I know that feeling, and I have felt it. That pleading deep down in your soul to grow a life...and this isn't it. In my head I know our family is full, but my heart isn't really on board. But I think if you gave me a hundred babies, I would still ache when that season of childbearing and babyhood was over. I think my heart would still have a hard time agreeing that it is through. It's not a hurt for more, it is a joy and a sadness all entwined together, wrecking me. Welcome to motherhood, the epitome of bittersweet. Here's the thing: I am so thankful I have two strong and healthy and perfect children, growing and progressing everyday. That immense blessing isn't lost on me. And yet, I physically hurt at how fast that is happening.

In the midst of my ugly cry, my good Dad stepped in with His perfect love, the way only God can. He gave me the most beautiful reminder and filled my mind with the revelation that lasts are beautiful. The end of something wonderful is sad, lasts are hard, but they are a reminder of how far we have come. Every last with my children is a promise that firsts are coming. First days of high school, first dates, wonderful firsts. And while the seasons to come will usher in new and different, and very scary firsts, I have so much to look forward to. I no longer say "I can't wait" for anything. I can wait. Please slow it down. But I do look forward to watching these little boys grow into men, and I am so thankful that every last brings a new first, and that I get to witness all of them.

So today, I might cry and mourn over all the lasts, but then I'm going to pull myself together and go pick up my babies from school. I'm going to love them well and soak them in, all the while knowing that every day is fleeting. I'm going to remember that "Better is the end of a thing than its beginning..." (Ecc. 7:8). And tomorrow, I'm going to wake my children gently after watching them sleep, the same way I do everyday, because soon enough, I will do that for the last time, too. I'm going to focus on the present, not be overcome by the past. Because lasts are a very special thing.