Motherhood is filled with so many firsts. We cherish the moment when our child smiles for the first time or takes their first steps or hops on the bus for the first day of school. Firsts are fleeting. They happen, and then we settle into a new normal — childproofing the house for a baby who can now crawl, adding a daycare drop-off to our morning commute, or taking school holidays into account when planning family trips.
We look forward to the firsts, as they usher in new phases of our parenting journey, and our child enters a new stage in life. Sometimes we even find ourselves anxiously waiting for these firsts to happen, perhaps not dissimilar from how we felt as teens, longing for adulthood.
I think about this a lot. So much of the first few years of motherhood are focused on firsts. We obsess over milestones. We even find ourselves longing for our little ones to achieve the small feats of independence that allow us just a little more breathing room as moms.
But with each first comes a last.
Some lasts represent a sigh of relief: The last diaper change, the last check made out to daycare, even the last time you hear the Cocomelon intro.
Some lasts are impossible to miss. They remind us, in no uncertain terms, that time is passing. The last time you close the baby gate before taking it down, or the last time you fold up the stroller before giving it to a friend with a new little one. The long process of sorting through outgrown clothes forces us to look time right in the face and recognize that, for better or for worse, kids grow up.
I can handle those lasts. I signed up for those.
The hardest lasts are the ones that sneak up on you. The lasts we don’t notice until later. They pass under our radar until we think back and say, “Hmm, he hasn’t said that in a while,” or, “Oh, I guess she doesn’t do that anymore.”
My son is almost 3 years old, and this is a season of a lot of firsts… and lasts. Maybe I’ve already buckled him into a stroller for the last time. Maybe he won’t ask me for a “pop-is-cle” this summer. Maybe he won’t want to watch the next season of Sesame Street with me.
But with each last comes a first. He’s growing, learning, and changing. I am so proud of him, and I cherish every opportunity I get to tell him so.
They say the days are long, but the years are short. It’s the long days that make us look forward to the firsts, but it’s the short years that make us want to cling to the lasts.
Every so often, I take a bit longer to tuck him in at bedtime. He still falls asleep in my arms, but it’s no longer every night. Not even every week. Each precious time, I ask myself, “What if this is the last time?” And then I hold him just a little bit longer.