“This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don’t know”
The Rolling Stones – The Last Time
As a parent, you spend an awful lot of time talking and thinking about firsts. First words, first steps, first tooth, first day at school, all of these major and minor milestones in our childrens’ lives. Even as our babies and toddlers become children, teenagers and adults, there will always be more firsts. There will be good firsts and bad firsts. There will be firsts our children can’t wait to share with us and firsts we may never hear about at all.
Whilst we spend all this time talking of firsts, how little we spend talking of lasts. My wife and I have two children and we have no plans for more. As our children grow, I start to think of all the things I may be experiencing for the last time, the things our children are leaving behind.
Thinking of these lasts, for me, started almost immediately after the birth of our second child. I was in the hospital, holding my newborn sons’ skin to my own. One of the few coherent thoughts to break through the fog of emotion and shock was “this may be the last time I ever hold a newborn child of mine”, and ever since the lasts have followed as surely as the firsts. The last time our baby would share our room, as we moved the cot into his own. Packing away the old buggy as we began to use a stroller instead. Bittersweet moments all.
There will be more lasts to come of course. Some will be a cause of sadness, some happiness (I’m not sure I will shed too many tears when I realise I have changed my childs’ nappy for the last time, for example), most will be somewhere inbetween.
I guess the difference between the firsts and the lasts is that the firsts are fairly easy to identify. Not always as much as you might think, admittedly. Was that the first word or was it just a sound that resembled a word? Was that the first step, or just a stumble? But most, first tooth, first day at nursery or school, can’t be mistaken, are recognised and celebrated, as they should be.
Lasts, however, are less easy to pin down. One of my favourite experiences as a parent is when one of my children falls asleep on me. For my eldest, that ship has probably sailed, for my youngest, probably not, but who knows? It has been a while. Was the last time I felt my sons’ head heavy on my shoulder and sat silent and still, listening to his gentle snoring and deep breaths close to my ear, the last time?
Thinking about these lasts may seem like I’m focusing on the negative, but I don’t see it that way, as the things that are lost are replaced by things that are new, as lasts become new firsts. And ultimately, treating these moments as if they may be lasts is just another to way to remind myself to savour them, to appreciate just how precious they are, just in case I don’t get to experience them again.