As a young working mother, I was bombarded with rules about “the firsts.” All the baby books are about firsts. I must write down my child’s first word or I was bound to forget it. This is true. I have no recollection regarding what either my daughter or son uttered as they spoke their first coherent word on this planet, the first in THEIR LIVES. My guess is it sounded something like “Mama” but I’m sure my husband would disagree.
I must get video of their first steps , which I was told were more significant than Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind.” My mother did her best to act surprised when I returned home from work and my daughter stepped toward me. I knew. “Step number two?” I asked. She was gracious and agreed, although her eyes told me it was more like five or six for the day. I’m sure at some point my son took his first step. He just graduated high school and seemed to have no problem walking across the podium and accepting his diploma.
Year one birthday cakes. Okay. I did this. Baked them, videoed them, got each child on camera. No one cried or stuck their faces in it, no sticky hands rubbed it in their hair, looking goofily at the camera to make some funny face that would land me $10,000 on America’s Funnies Home Videos. They ate it and then sat there, all rather anticlimactic really.
First Halloween was a Santa onesie for my daughter and a pea, a whole pod actually, for my son. Christmas and Easter I’m sure were fun, but honestly, I have no recollection of the first gift of Christmas (lucky my children were born before the guilt from the movie could work its way into my bones- that’s a huge burden- the FIRST gift of Christmas.) I was a full-time working mom. I was simply trying to stay awake.
But, I wonder now why no one ever told me to be pay attention to the lasts. That I would miss missing them so much more than I ever missed missing the firsts. If I had known it was the last time I was going to lift the spoon into my daughter’s mouth, I would have made sure it was the best airplane noise ever. If I had known it was the last book I was going to read to my son in bed I never would have read “The end.” If I had known that it was the last time they would need me to wash their hair and between their toes, I never would have let the water drain. If I had known it was going to be the last time I carried a sleeping child up the stairs to bed, I never would have let go. Sometime, when I wasn’t looking, the lasts happened.
I’ve tried to become more cognizant about knowing when the lasts are going to happen. In 2020 when my daughter was ready to graduate high school, I knew the year would be full of lasts. So I set my task to the calendar, a reminder to what was to come. In teacher red pen I covered the months up until June: “last play,” “last musical,” “last choir concert,” and then COVID happened and I realized I had actually missed lasts again because the last musical wasn’t supposed to be the last musical, the last concert wasn’t supposed to be the last concert.
Driving my son in to school the other week, I remembered it was our last day that we would be in the car together doing the morning drive. I took a picture of him sitting in the passenger seat. Right before bed I remembered the next day would be his last lunch, and I hurriedly through together what I could find. A regular lunch, nothing special to make it significant.
It’s funny how the “lasts” for my children represent a whole, new, wide world that they are about to embark on…a full life ahead of them. Excitement. Hope.
The lasts just make made me sad right now.
I missed my son’s last time playing baseball. I thought it would be one game, and it turned out to be the other. I sat at the game in my folding chair realizing he wasn’t going out on the mound any more, that it had happened without me seeing it, and I cried. It was a selfish cry…for me… a Mom whose kids are now grown and leaving to find their way in the world.
I don’t know what to do with all of it yet.
My friends who are ahead of me in this part of life seemed to have handled it with grace.
I’m handling it with runny mascara.