Have you ever noticed that parents tend to focus a lot on "firsts"?

We celebrate the first time our baby lifts his head.
The first time she rolls over.
The first word, first tooth, first step.

Then as they grow older, it's…

His first boy-girl party.
Her first dance.
First date, first zit (devastating!), first time behind the wheel of a car.

The other day, I was cleaning out my planner pockets and came across a tiny folded piece of paper. Opening it up, I saw a pencil drawing of two stick figures. On the page were one little person and one big person with a mop of curly hair; they were holding hands. Joshua had given the drawing to me just before I'd taken him on his very first official play date. "So you won't miss me too much while I'm gone," he'd said.

As I sat there, holding that piece of paper, I suddenly realized that as much as I'd focused on firsts, I'd somehow failed to notice many of the "lasts." They'd snuck past me like whispers and shadows, gone before I was even aware I'd missed something. (Of course, this is largely due to the fact that one rarely knows when a "last" will occur.) And now, all that remained was a bittersweet lingering sense that something valuable was gone, never to return or be experienced again.

Things like…

The last time I picked up my "sack of potatoes" and dumped you giggling onto the sofa cushions, only to have you beg me to do it again.
The last time you got up from bed only to come snuggle in with Daddy and me, early on a Saturday morning.
The last time we rode the mall escalator together ten times in a row.
The last time we paused in a walk so you could pick up another rock or stick to add to your collection.
The last time I listened to your delighted squeals as I pushed you higher on the swing.
The last time I slept on the floor of your bedroom so you could fall asleep in your crib.
The last time you held my hand to cross the street.
The last time I cradled you in my arms.
The last time I read you a bedtime story.
The last time you needed me to kiss it and make it all better.

Well, I'm paying attention now. And as much as any last is within my control, I will embrace and treasure it.

For my daughter—as difficult as it will be—I will celebrate with you, your last days of high school. Forever.
The last time I'll be able to kiss you goodnight during the school year.
The last time I'll know exactly where you are at any given moment. (Or at least think I know!)

For my son, I'll cherish your last days as a high school freshman with your future stretching before you like a gilt-edged dream.
The last time you smile at me with your braces on.
The last time I'll ride in the car with you BEFORE you get your license.

And then, to make myself feel better, I'll do what all parents do…

I'll slowly turn and look forward again, to focus on the firsts. Because I know they'll be as exhilarating to experience as the lasts are heartrending.

Image by: Michelle Schantz


Kristi Faith said...

Beautifully written and expressed. That is so true. Those lasts are sad, but necessary for more firsts. You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for reminding us!

Kristi Faith said...

Beautifully written and expressed. That is so true. Those lasts are sad, but necessary for more firsts. You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for reminding us!

Virginia said...

Oh true. So sweet. And so sad and bittersweet.

Brandy@YDK said...

omgosh. this broke my heart.

Cassandra Frear said...

Poignant and true

Annette Piper said...

Holly, that makes me just want to cry. You're so right of course.

Erin Wallace said...

Your post has me tearing up. I have children on both ends of the spectrum and find I am focusing on my toddler's firsts rather than my 17 year old's lasts. Thanks so much for your insight.

Unknown said...

Beautiful. I sometimes think it's the bittersweet things in life that end up meaning the most. Intentionally or not, we remember the lasts just as much, if not more, than we do the firsts. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Vivianne's Vista said...

I swear a tear rolled down my cheek. I remember my mother sobbing when I left for college.

I can hear in your voice the same bittersweet emotions regarding your children leaving the nest. It's great that you are writing about it.

As for the lasts, I think we don't focus on them so much because they are just as you described them- inherently bittersweet emotions.

Christine Holroyd said...

Too sad. I am still co sleeping with our 5 y/o and last week She went for four nights in her own bed which is next to ours. Quiet tears were shed thinking it was the last of our snuggles and being kicked out of bed. lol.

I'm not ready for it, but She's back! And as uncomfy as it is, I cherish the snuggles because one day I will miss them as I will many other things.

I do look forward to more 'firsts' that will (sort of) replace the 'lasts'.

Lisa Lawmaster Hess said...

Wow. What a beautiful post. Your kids are lucky to have a mom who looks at life - and their lives - the way you do.

Meagan Frank said...

That was great. I am in the middle of composing my blog about what it is to feel poised right between the firsts and the lasts. My oldest turns ten Thursday and I know some of his firsts are gone and many of his lasts are gaining on him. I cried reading your post, and I am grateful for your insight!

Anonymous said...

I echo Lisa's words: it was a beautiful post, Holly! I had thought of the "lasts" before, but you put it so well. Thank you!