Charlotte named her most recent loose tooth, Gerald. He took so long to come out, she got a little attached. She brought him to me in a ziplock, as I lay in bed wondering why there was a ziplock hanging over my face. She suggested I just give her the dollar, or better yet a treat from Target, since she now knows the tooth fairy is a sham, but she’d still like credit for the valiant effort of losing a tooth. Target it is, because I had no cash on hand, and she doesn’t accept credit cards.

A few days before Gerald left us, I was a bit relieved when my adorable 10 year old let me off the hook, announcing she no longer believes in the tooth fairy. Thank goodness, I thought…there is no fairy worse than that one who sneaks into her child’s room after she is asleep, to oh so carefully remove a tiny tooth from under a pillow, hoping to not wake the child, and leave behind a dollar bill. I mean…who came up with that idea? Someone who never lacked for sleep, due to no children I am sure.

Or how about the midnight tooth fairy runs, when you go to leave the crisp dollar bill, so proud you remembered, only to find a sweet little note requesting a magical gift rather than money? I had two daughters pull that one on me. Apparently they are not capitalists, and preferred an act of service to prove the tooth fairy’s love. I was so thankful to know my tooth fairy career had come to end…for about a day…then I felt sad.

Charlotte is the baby. She is the end of the line for me when it comes to things like the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa (who by the way is still alive and well). She quickly let me know that although the tooth fairy is no longer in the running for favorite person/fairy who is allowed to sneak into our home at night, Santa still is. Noted.

They say we always remember their firsts, but never the lasts. Moments like announcing they no longer believe in something, is a little different. We could actually write the date down if we wanted to. But what about the last time you picked your child up off the ground, and into your arms? Or rocked them to sleep? How about a kiss on the cheek in public? Some things sort of just stop. It’s ok…it is how life goes…but personally, if I dwell on it, I get a bit melancholy.

One of the greatest benefits of having half a dozen children, besides the fact that for the rest of your life you can freak people out by saying you have “half a dozen,” is that by the time number 6 comes along, you realize how fast it is going to go. It causes me to slow down not only with my youngest, but with all of them.

I have always been a “smiley” kind of mom. This world can be cold and unkind. I want my children to know that no matter what, when they walk into a room and I am there, they will receive a smile that says, ” I love you.” Lately that smile is saying more than they will ever know. It says things like, damn it you grew overnight again…wow, you are growing into a handsome man…how I long to rock you to sleep one more time…I hope you are happy inside…I hope you know how much I love you. If you are a mom, you get it. One smile can say all of that.

I have become acutely aware of the fleeting time with all of my children. I have two who are grown and on their own. I have experienced it twice already. I know it is coming. I am dreading another one turning 18 in October. This is her last year of high school, and she wants to go away to college. My 17 year old is counting on military boot camp next summer. I am praying for an extra long school year for that reason. My 14 year old woke up one morning and started talking like a man. I’ll never hear is squeaky little boy voice again. And the 10 year old, still clinging to Santa Clause and naming her loose teeth, is beginning to slowly let things go, as she looks ahead to growing up.

I have always thought I’d be fine as an empty nester. Heck, when they were all very young, I had moments of dreaming about it. But it is starting to look very real to me. Like, it really is going to happen. After having a houseful for so many years, even just having one or two left at home will feel a bit empty to me. I never expected to be feeling a little sad as I look ahead to a future of smaller loads of laundry, and not cooking for a crowd. I really cannot even comprehend that kind of life. Truth be told, I hope my children reproduce like rabbits, so on holidays they can all come over, make tons of noise, and drop cookie crumbs all around the house. I’m not even joking. I will need that. If they scribble on the freshly painted wall, I’ll just frame it and call it art.

Yesterday my grown daughter came over, bringing along with her, the cutest, most intelligent 2 year old. (the rumors are true – grandchildren are ridiculously fun) When that little guy is around, he is a wonderful reminder that seasons change, and in a good way. Right about the time we become more relaxed, and laid back, grandkids start coming into the picture. You’ll be surprised how much you love the site of a living room cluttered with toys, after a day of your first grandchild visiting. I think it’s beautiful.

If only we could realize that beauty when we are in the thralls of motherhood. As with most things in life, we often don’t see the joy and beauty on a daily basis, when we are living it day in and day out. If there is one thing I never want to regret, it is the ability to see the joy in every day motherhood. I see it. I love the noise. I love the hugs. I love making their favorite foods. I love how they make me laugh. I love the random conversations. I love watching them flourish.

So thank you, Gerald the loose tooth. You served me well, as a reminder once again, to slow down, and cherish every exhausting, hilarious moment…even if it means coming up with magical gifts at midnight…for all too soon…the magic will end.