The first year of life is marked with more “firsts” than a sleep-deprived parent can record in a baby book. Before Henry was born, I didn’t realize how enthralled I’d be by every single little development. The moment his eyes first looked out a window, the time his little arms stretched upward and finally met the cheerful toys above, when he belly laughed, sat up, tasted solid food, flew on a plane, crawled off the blanket in our yard, touched the ocean, when his sounds started to resemble discernible words, when he learned to crawl up the stairs with wild abandon (scary!), how he became obsessed with pushing everything around the house like it’s his job (too funny!) and now we are waiting for those first independent steps. It is so much fun trying to keep up with it all and adjusting to the newness that each new “first” brings.
Of course, for every first, there is a last. As a poem posted to a mom group on Facebook pointed out, there will be a last time you swaddle your baby, nurse him to sleep, or carry him on your hip. I understand the sentiment: appreciate life with baby now – the sweet moments and the challenges – because it will all be over soon. After all, babies don’t keep.
But your entire life is filled with “lasts,” and not simply around your children. There’s the last time you attend class as a student, spend a night in your childhood home, visit with a grandparent, travel overseas, read your favorite book. There will be countless lasts with your children, from homework-helping to sport-spectating and Christmas morning surprises to college visits. Some lasts coincide with firsts, like that time you got caught in a thunderstorm in Tuscany, enjoyed fresh seafood on a pier in Aruba, said yes to your husband’s marriage proposal or welcomed your first child into the world.
Recently I’ve noticed this funny thing where parents don’t want their children to grow up. Oh, you’re right, this isn’t new. I’m sure since babies were born, parents reveled in their smallness, and part of their heart dreaded the day when their babies weren’t babies anymore. But in our modern world, we’ve become dramatic about how we express these feelings about our children growing up. “Firsts” have become something to be mourned with crying emoticons and frownie faces, and there are countless articles with a similar wallowing tone. Maybe the complex feelings of parenting simply cannot be translated into the short-hand “language” we use through social media today and people are craving an outlet for expression? Because it certainly is a confusing feeling to want something with all your heart – for him to grow, and learn and love – and at the same time, keep him young forever.
I certainly understand the sentiment of many parents to hold on to their babies. Even when my little sister made the transition from cuddly-pool-holding-baby to swimming-on-her-own-independent-child I thought about this transition and wondered if my mom missed her baby. But life is far too short to dwell on the lasts.
Instead of witnessing his firsts with mournful resistance, I am choosing to celebrate. After all, it is much more fun saying a cheerful hello to each new stage than a tearful goodbye.
I know we all truly want the same thing: for our babies to grow up and be happy. So let’s celebrate the firsts as our children inch closer to the big people they will become, one baby step at a time.
… and now, on to toddlerhood!