Parenting “firsts” get all the fanfare. Baby’s first steps. The first day of school. The first time your teenager drives the family car. Etc.
Right now Josiah is at the age where the firsts are happening almost daily. Look, mom, I figured out how to help you rearrange those books you just neatly stacked up.
I wonder, though, why the “lasts” don’t get more attention, because in my opinion they represent the fleeting, ever-changing and temporary nature of parenthood.
A few days ago my parents were visiting, and as usual, the 3 and 5 year old girls dressed up in their dance outfits and put on a little show. My 10 year old is right now on the cusp of exiting childhood and entering puberty. She was sitting next to my mother, who commented, “Sadie, you used to dress up and do performances for us all the time. Your mom did that too.”
I searched my memory for the last time she did that. She and her sister used to transform the living room into a stage, the rug a catwalk. They would play dance recital or pretend to be models showing the latest in haute couture. I can’t remember the last time they did that.
I can’t remember the last time I drew a bath for my 10-year-old daughter (my guess is around 3 years ago; a switch seems to flick in a child when they turn 7, and it’s no longer acceptable for you to see them naked). Or the last time I helped her put on tights or lace-up shoes. I can’t remember the last time I nursed any of my children because weaning is so gradual.
When my preemie was still in the NICU, the final days and weeks were agonizing. I knew that any day, I would get the signal from the nurses that he could come home. (The rule of “7-days of no bradycardia or apnea” would frustratingly get reset often.)
There was a long hallway that led from the hospital’s elevators to the NICU security doors, and I would comfort myself by saying, “Someday, it will the the Last Time you do this. One day, it will be the very Last Time you walk down this hallway, because you will be coming here to take your baby home.”
Some Lasts have fanfare, but most don’t.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, and I dislike pithy parenting sayings.
But because my oldest is 17 1/2 and my youngest still a baby, I can see clearly that all things do come to an end. Babies stop nursing in the night (thank God!). Toddlers learn how to wipe their own butts and preschoolers learn to wash their own hands afterwards. Little girls learn the technique, harder than it looks, of putting on tights. They learn to drive and they buy cars.
The whole thing just doesn’t last.