I'm Celebrating My Child's 'Firsts,' But I'm Also Mourning The 'Lasts'

by Jennifer Douglas
Originally Published: 
A mother reading a bedtime story to her son, who's drinking milk from a bottle
PeopleImages / Getty

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was celebrating the milestone of your first smile. After making your entrance into this world like a lightning bolt, it felt like you barely slept for those precious first few weeks of your life. When you were awake, you were crying – it was a case of colic that nobody quite understood. I didn’t know how to make you happy – we were both hanging by a thread in survival mode. Just as I was ready to come completely undone, one day, you smiled. My heart exploded. It was your very first smile, and it made all the weeks of utter exhaustion and frustration completely worth it.

We celebrated so many more firsts. Your first time rolling over. Your first time sitting up. Your first teeth. Your first solid foods. Your first time crawling. Your first steps. Your first time running. Your first time using the potty.

Only recently have I realized that celebrating firsts, often means they are followed by lasts. I don’t want to miss anymore lasts, but the reality is, nobody knows when it’s the last time we will do something together. Missing the lasts is a painful inevitability.

Your first time crawling, also meant you didn’t want to be held as much. Your fiery personality, demanding of independence, wanted to explore – at top speed I might add. I recall those difficult, colicky months of holding you, bouncing you, wearing you in a baby wrap – these memories are often blurred with crying myself to sleep from exhaustion. Holding you through this was done out of an infinite amount love but also out of survival mode and necessity. I couldn’t put you down – not even for a minute – without a screaming fit. I couldn’t get a break. I yearned for five minutes to myself. Then one day, without me knowing it, it was my last time wearing you in a baby wrap. My last time bouncing you until you stopped screaming. My last time providing you the comfort you needed when we were both so vulnerable.

Maybe if I knew it was my last time wearing you in a baby wrap, I would have savored it more, even if I hadn’t slept more than one hour the night before. Even if it hadn’t been out of sheer survival, maybe if I knew it was the last time, I would have soaked in that sweet smell of your hair and cuddled you for just a little longer.

But, we can’t predict the lasts.

You are not my first baby, but you are my last. I want to hold onto these precious moments as long as possible. I tear up as I experience the dichotomy of your milestones: your growing independence fosters some of the freedom I’ve so desperately yearned for – yet simultaneously leaves me with the void that you’re needing me less and less each day.

Recently, your milestones have been arriving ferociously. In the last month, you did the unthinkable and potty trained yourself. Almost completely unprompted, and faster than expected, you did it. Somewhere in the last month, this means that I changed your last diaper. I should be celebrating this milestone more. In a way – I am celebrating. I’m so proud of you.

But, if I knew I was changing your last diaper sometime last month, I would have slowed down to enjoy how much you always tried to help me with it – despite your flailing, kicking legs, you always tried to cooperate when it was change table time. Now, all I can think about is, the fact that you are no longer in diapers, means you are no longer a baby. You are not even a toddler. You are a little boy, and time is passing too quickly.

And now that you don’t wear a diaper to bed anymore, despite the fact that you have been climbing out of your crib for months, we finally put you in your toddler bed. Your dad decided on a whim to set up the bed. Sure, we had talked about it, but one day, we just did it. We celebrated this first with your favourite – Paw Patrol sheets. You were so happy with your new bed you were shaking. You wanted to go to sleep at 4 p.m. in your new Big Boy Bed. I’m so proud of you. But if I had known that the night before was the last time I would put you to sleep in your crib, I would have cuddled you for longer. I would have paused time to reflect on these past two-and-a-half years of putting my baby to bed.

We have one more ritual that I’m not ready to let go of. Each night, we sit in the rocking chair. You are almost too big for my lap now, but that doesn’t stop you. We hug, and rock, and whisper, and snuggle. Your sister didn’t need me in the rocking chair by the time she was a year old. But you – my energetic, wild boy. You intuitively know that bedtime hugs and snuggles help to tame your wild spirit. One night, you almost went into your new Paw Patrol bed without the hugs. I would have understood. I would have accepted this new milestone of your independence. But deep down, I’m not ready for our nighttime rocking to be a last.

Every night I rock you, and think what if this is the last time I rock you before bedtime? What if you don’t need me as much tomorrow as you do today?

I don’t want to miss any future lasts, but the reality is, I will. Because each last is also a celebration of a first. I want you to know, that when that day comes, that you no longer need me to rock you before bedtime, I will understand. I will say goodnight, close the door of your room, and I will cry – but I will understand. This isn’t about me. It’s about celebrating you, your firsts, your independence, and your accomplishments. But, until it’s our last time cuddling before bed, I will savor it every time.

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