Firsts, Lasts, and In Betweens

December 16th, 2013

“There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have a Cars cartoon sticker in my wallet. It’s been there for a few weeks now, and I don’t plan on getting rid of it any time soon. It isn’t anything special really, just a simple child’s sticker, one of many handed out by our family pediatrician every day. So, why am I hanging on to it? Because it represents a last—the last time my oldest son will ever go to a pediatrician for a check-up.

Sjon-Paul is 17, and he will “graduate” to a general practitioner soon. At his last check-up, the doctor jokingly gave each of my well-above-sticker-age children this “reward” after getting their shots. Sjon-Paul grinned and handed it to me.

While his last pediatric visit doesn’t seem like much of a milestone, it is one more reminder to me that my first baby is growing up. It is a last, and I don’t want to forget.

As parents we are really good about memorializing the firsts—you know, the first smile, the first bath, the first words, the first steps, the first day of school, the first time a child rides a bike, etc. We notice the firsts. We write them down. We even celebrate them. But often, very often, the lasts slip right by us, and one day we wake up wondering.

When was the last time I gave my child a bath? When was the last time I tied her shoes? When was the last time I tucked him into bed? When was the last time I carried her in my arms? When was the last time he rode on his dad’s back around the living room?

If you are like me, you probably didn’t notice the exact time when your child no longer needed your assistance in the tub. I doubt you remember when she quit crawling into your bed to snuggle on Saturday mornings. I know I can’t recall the date when my children were all too big to carry in my arms or even to push around in a stroller. Life flies by, and before we know it there is a string of lasts behind us, and we never even noticed the finality of each one. Maybe it’s because lasts are just not as much fun. In fact, they are often kind of sad.

This year, as my son nears his high school graduation, I am preparing myself for many lasts. But this year I am determined to notice them. I want to pay attention, to relish every moment. And while I know that some of those moments are going to bring tears, I don’t want them all to be sad. I want to use them as markers to remind me of all the sweet memories my husband and I have had raising our son. I want these lasts to be gentle nudges that help me remember to thank God for every moment of my son’s life. I want them to be bookmarks that help me recall all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful parts of parenting.

I want the lasts to be a celebration. I want to recognize that yes, this one stage of my son’s life is ending, but another one is just beginning. I want to be aware of the lasts so that I can remember that time doesn’t stand still, that time with our children is precious, and that life with our families should always be cherished—the firsts and lasts and every moment in between.

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