Saturday, May 10, 2008

Transitioning from Firsts to Lasts

At some point in the last year, I crossed a line in parenthood.

I can’t define the moment at which it happened. I can’t even recall the week. It may have been a slight shift over the course of a few months.

All I can say for sure is that a year or two ago, I was focused on firsts. I was anxious for the first smiles, first foods, first words, and first steps. I was always impatient for what was just around the corner. I told myself that life would be so much easier when the naps were more predictable, when the nursing was finished, when they were all dressing themselves, and when they were all in school.

I thought it would be nice to wear a shirt without spitup on it. I thought it would be lovely to shower without little fists pounding on the bathroom door. I was certain that breakfast would be more pleasant once I was no longer required to spoon the cereal into someone’s mouth and wipe it off my face when someone blew raspberries with a mouth full of oatmeal.

I remember my excitement at the prospect of kids who could buckle themselves, wipe themselves, read to themselves, and wash themselves.

More experienced moms would tell me to slow down and savor the moments, but I dismissed them with thoughts that surely they must be going senile.

How could anyone not look forward to the time when the children could independently tie their shoes? Who doesn’t look forward to the completion of potty training? Do these women actually miss the endless nights of laundry during the bouts of stomach flu or the hours of lost sleep because the baby won’t stop crying?

And then I realized that, instead of experiencing so many firsts with my kids, I was beginning to experience lasts.

When was the last time I read Goodnight Moon three times in a row? When did I last receive an enthusiastic “glad to see you” hug from my oldest son? When was the last time I washed my daughter’s face and smooched her nose?

Granted, there are a few lasts that I will not mind marking: the last diaper, the last pet beetle in a jar, the last episode of Dora the Explorer, and the last spilled milk that drips into every crevice of the table.

But when was the last time I held a newborn who scrunched up under my chin and became an extension of me? When was the last time I watched someone smile in her sleep? When did I last rock a little one to sleep and feel the heavy weight of my parental responsibility on my chest as he rested, completely secure in my arms and dependent upon me for his survival?

At some point, there will be more lasts, like the last request to sleep with Mom, the last first day of school, and the last t-ball game. We will experience the last bedtime story, the last sleepover, and the last game of hide and seek. Some of those lasts will pass by unnoticed. Some will bring a tear.

I know that, as I pass from a mom focused on firsts to a mom considering lasts, I will try to savor the sweetness of this stage in life. Instead of wishing for the next first, I’ll spend some time enjoying the here and now. I’ll probably still cry at graduation this year, knowing that someday it will be me saying goodbye to my babies, but I’ll attempt to make the most of the fleeting time I have to create memories with them – both firsts and lasts.


Ranch Mommy said...

I totally understand what you're feeling!! My "baby" just turned 2. Wow those 2 years flew by!!

ZenPanda said...

I still look forward to both the first and last of anything with my children...even though they are mostly adults. I even started to think of what it will be like to have grandchildren. Just not anytime soon.

Whether it's a first or last they are all special. It really never changes.

Mum-me said...

I have had all those thoughts too, in the past. I just try to cherish the 'now' these days. When my husband says "Won't it be great when they can all wash themselves/ buckle their seatbelts/ spell words by themselves?" I am the one telling him not to wish their lives away.

Jan said...

Ah, but all those "lasts" make more firsts! First week of college, first roommate, first finals week, first apartment, first serious love, first job. I enjoy my adult children as much or more as I did when they were little! Someday I'll even have that first grandbaby to cuddle. And so goes life.

oceans5 said...

Wonderful post. My son just got his first haircut last week and since he is my last baby it will be the last first. It hit me pretty hard. They do grow up too quickly and I am finally starting to sit back and realize that this time goes by way too fast.

Treasia said...

Beautiful post! Even though my youngest is going to graduate next year I still try to enjoy as many firsts as possible. But have to say I am looking forward to the last day of high school greatly.

Lisa & Gerald said...

Happy Mother's day to you!

Anonymous said...

So, true.. I try to enjoy them all, whatever they are..


Anonymous said...

There is a book called, Let Me Hold You Longer, that you should read. It is all about the lasts and I am not a crier but I did cry reading it.
Jennifer D

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