We have long since graduated from the phase in our children’s lives where we celebrated firsts. First steps, first solid foods, first haircuts, first lost teeth, first cruise around the cul-de-sac without training wheels. There was no abrupt moment when I noticed, but with time, those firsts have become more spaced out, less prominent, faded into new routines.
Last night, I lay curled up on my son’s beanbag chair. I racked my brain and could not recall the last time he had asked me to stay in his room as he was falling asleep. He had been at a friend’s house and watched a horror movie that left him a bit more affected than he’d like to admit. There were no words spoken to ask me to stay, but when I offered, his body relaxed, and while he would never admit it, there was a slight nod before his head dropped onto his pillow. I re-adjusted and found myself a little nest in his large foam ball of a chair and closed my eyes, letting my mind wander as I tried to recall the last time I had done just this exact same thing. And then I tried to remember other lasts. The last time I had drawn him a bath with bubbles. The last time I had laid out his clothes on his dresser for the next day. Lasts never celebrated or identified until they had faded unnoticed even faster than memories of firsts.
This intersection of childhood and the first tastes of a new transition into becoming fully independent has been one that we have been trying to navigate by trial and error. Sometimes we do not realize until it is too late that we got it all wrong, and sometimes, we skate by and think we got it right. We are fully aware that some days we like our kids less than we love them, and that is part of the process. But we are trying to remind ourselves to savor every last minute of this clunky, unceremonious transition. As these lasts come and go without us even realizing, we want to remember how much we enjoy our relationship with them in its ever-evolving form at this moment in time.
I do not remember the last time I brought my 12-year-old daughter to dance and stayed for the duration of all her classes. But I’ll remember how she used to light up when she tumbled out of one class and saw me sitting there, holding up her water and snack and helped her take off her ballet shoes and tied her tap shoes.
I cannot recall the exact date when I last helped my son put on his baseball belt and tuck in his baseball uniform, but I’ll remember the absolute joy he exuded those first times his bat made contact with the ball on the field.
At some point, that first contact of the bat to the ball turned into the memory of when he hit a walk-off run in a play-off game, flipped his bat with the most knowing confidence and advanced his team, with the memory of his baseball buddies meeting him out in the field and tackling him, ending in him making sand angels next to the first base plate.
While those firsts were exhilarating as new parents experiencing it all for the first time, the memories continue all the same with unequivocal emotions of adoration and absolute pride.
So, as I lay with a growing cramp in my side, curled up on that foam beanbag chair, I’ll do what I can to remember this mundane evening of waiting for my son’s breaths to deepen until I know he is fully asleep. Maybe it won’t be the last time he will, in his own way, want me to stay until he falls asleep. But I suppose there is no way to be sure, so I’ll store away this memory just in case, knowing tomorrow will bring new turns as they continue to leave behind the firsts of childhood. Rather than mourn the sadness of lasts, I’ll sit present in this moment, eager for the joy in the To Be Continued yet to come.