Last Wednesday was my daughter Hannah’s first day of school. She’s a high school senior now, so it was the last first day of school. I took the required “first day of school” pictures of her with her younger brother Daniel but it was bittersweet for me. This is the last time I’ll get that picture of the two of them standing on the driveway.
Babies and children have a lot of milestones that are happy—the first tooth, the first step, sleeping through the night—but underlying all of them is a “last”—the last toothless smile, the end of crawling, the last 2 a.m. feeding. We are so busy celebrating the firsts (yay sleep!) that we don’t notice the lasts. I don’t remember the last time I read to the kids at bedtime; I don’t know the last time I carried them. The “lasts” have just crept up on me until we hit this big one—the last first day of school.
Hannah and Daniel used to fight to sit on my lap so I’d balance them each on a separate leg so they could “share” me. When was the last time they sat on my lap? I don’t know but it’s been a while, considering that Hannah and I are the same size and Daniel is taller than both of us. Was I aware that the last time they sat on my lap was the LAST time? Definitely not.
One of my favorite things was reading to the kids at night. Even thought I was tired, or cranky, or we all were tired and cranky, there was something magical about them choosing their favorite stories for me to read. I never got tired of the repetition and I fondly remember their choices: “Snowmen at Night,” “No David,” and, “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
And then they learned to read. At first we would read together but as they gained skill and confidence it was “I can read by myself, Mom.” So story time morphed into a quick snuggle at bedtime. At first I was glad to have an extra half-hour in the evening to myself. And now I remember the books, but I don’t remember the last time we read them together. It just happened that they didn’t need me to read to them any more.
Every beginning is also an end. When Hannah got her driver’s license I was relieved of my schlepping duties. But I missed our car rides together and the uninterrupted time we shared. I gained something (another driver) but lost something (time with her).
If I had to do it all over again, I’m not sure what I would do differently. I know I thoroughly delighted in most of their “firsts” and I don’t think I would change that. As Hannah goes through her last year of high school I’ve been warned not to become too focused on the lasts—her last class trip, her last swim meet, her last chorus concert. Change is hard and senior year for her is going to be all about change.
I need to step back and remember that it’s her senior year. If she wants to be sad, she can be sad. If she wants to celebrate, we’ll celebrate. It’s a long way from here to graduation; on the other hand, it will be here in a blink. I need to remember to enjoy the ride.