The Last First

Many years ago, back when I was in high school (and for the first time in my life high school is starting to feel like it WAS many years ago) I was a fan of the newspaper columns Dear Abby, and Ask Ann Landers.

I do not recall which one of these columns printed a specific letter, but I vividly remember reading it, and how it stuck with me all day.  When I came home from school, I actually CLIPPED the column out of the newspaper (the only time I ever did this), carefully folded it up and stuck it in my wallet.  The clipping was in my wallet for many years, but through too many times falling into a lake or pool, and trips through the washing machine, the article succumbed to the ravages of time.

Over the years (despite the miracle of the internet) I have never been unable to find a copy of that letter.  I do not remember which column it was in.  I do not remember the date.  I do not remember the exact syntax of the letter. 

The letter was written to help remind the readers, to take time to smell the roses.  Yes, that thought applies to everyday life, but in this letter it was specifically about raising children. 

Even back then, I always assumed I would be a father (of five??  Not so sure of that, but a parent non-the-less).  So, even though I do not remember the column, the date, or the syntax, what I do remember, was the message it conveyed…

As parents we frequently celebrate our child’s (or children’s) “firsts”.  The first time our baby rolls over, the first time our baby crawls, the first time our baby eats solid food, our baby’s first steps, the first time our baby says Mommy / Daddy (or their version of the equivalent).  Let’s not forget our camcorders, cameras, photo-albums, and scrap-books which are stuffed with videos and photos and memories of these momentous occasions…  

Yet somewhere along the line, we become complacent.  These events (such as rolling over, crawling, walking, eating solid food, or talking) become mundane.  They become the norm.  Then, we forget about the excitement we once had for these milestones.

As many of these things become everyday occurrences, they because all to easy to overlook as “lasts”… 

Sometimes lasts are a good thing - like that “last” diaper.  (Whoo-hoo!!  No more diapers!!!

But other times it’s not so celebratory – like the last time your baby calls you Mommy or Daddy (and you become Mom & Dad, then Ma & Dad, and finally around age 14 or so, they just grunt at you when they want your attention), or the last time your baby crawls, or the last time your baby sits on your lap.   Don’t forget the last time you are able to carry your baby in your arms, or the last time your baby is interested in having you read them a story, or give you a hug or kiss in public.  I use “baby” here, but in many of these instances, your “baby” is no longer a “baby”.

For every first, there is almost always a last.

IMG_0267 Yesterday, we achieved one of those lasts.  After 16 years of being married, and five children under our belts, we experienced our last “first lost tooth”. 

Yes, #5 of 5 lost her very first tooth.

While it was exciting, it was (at the very same time) a little sad. 

When the kids were younger (much younger – as infants) I would frequently tell the Mother of Five something along the line of “I can’t wait to see what s/he is going to be like as a toddler”. 

As a toddler I would say  “I can’t wait to see what s/he is going to be like as a pre-schooler”. 

As a pre-schooler, I would say “I wonder what s/he is going to be like as a school-ager”, and

As a school-ager I told myself “I can’t wait to see what s/he is going to be like as a teen ager”…  

The Mother of Five would always caution me as to how fast they will grow up, and how when the time does arrive, I will want to take my wish back.

LoveYouForever She used to read a book to the kids when they were younger (although I suspect she was reading it more for herself).  “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch.  (If you are a parent and have never read this story… DO IT!  Do it for yourself.)

Now that I have an adult (or a close proximity to an adult) and a teen ager (who is everything you think of when you think teen-ager) – Just as the Mother of Five predicted, I am finding myself wondering where the time went…  Wishing I could take that wish back.

I am struggling to remember when #1 of 5 (now 21 years old) or #2 of 5 (now 14 years old) lost their first teeth.  Struggling to remember a time when it seemed like our house would keep the tooth-fairy busy - VERY BUSY - for a very long time! 

I do not get that feeling so much anymore…  The seemingly endless supply of children’s teeth from the FOF compound is showing signs of drying up…  And while it excites me, it also leaves me saddened. 

I often think of my parents (who I take for granted all-to-often) - and how independent a man I have become (which is, in many ways, a good thing – and speaks highly of how they raised me) – but how THEY must have felt as I grew up, and grew independent, and how they may have felt less and less needed – as I am starting to now. 

My solace kicks in (and I have always hoped my parents parents felt solace) when I remind myself even now, as a happy, successful, 40 year old, father of five, husband, and homeowner – that some of the sadness I feel about watching my children grow (or that I suspect my parents may have felt at one point watching my sister and I grow) comes from the signs of future successes yet to come.  The signs that my children are growing  into happy, healthy, well adjusted, and independent adults – just as I have.

 

It reminds me of why I started this blog. 

Why “The Life of a Father of Five” exists today. 

I write to help me remember the “lasts”.

For those of you who are new here, or who have never had the chance to read the inaugural post of “The Life of a Father of Five” (and are interested in doing so) you can find it HERE.

I have my own version of “Love You Forever”.  Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” is my “Love You Forever”. 

I so seldom listen to this song.  It always brings tears to my eyes… Tears of joy, and tears of sorrow.

It reminds me of the “lasts”.

.

Enjoy the firsts folks… by all means!  But please do not forget to pay attention to the “lasts” too – they can be just as important – just as much a milestone. 

I am going now.  I need to wipe the tears from my eyes.  Thank you for reading. 

8 comments:

  1. I think we're all guilty of this. Why, lately if it's not some "special" occasion, i don't even break out the camera with the kids. But congrats on your last "first." I'm sure there are many more last firsts to come, but this is a goody.

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  2. I noticed that we did the "ok you did it. now keep doing it" with number 4. Since number five just got here, we'll more than likely do the same thing. Sure we enjoy it, but then it turns to the mundane like you say.

    My wife has that book. She got it with my oldest. I never read it until a couple months ago. Its a book that I don't want to read again because it will make me cry eventually.

    nice post my friend.

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  3. A great reminder! How I would love to slow down time.

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  4. Wow. I had to wipe tears from MY eyes. Thanks for that message, FOF.

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  5. Wise, moving, words. Thanks for being Father of Five and for sharing.

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  6. I hope the tooth fairy cherishes every last one of those fallen teeth to come.
    That Love you forever book always creeped me out.

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  7. What a very poignant and oh-so-true post. My youngest turned 16 this past summer and is well on her way to becoming adult while my middle child will take that walk down the aisle to get her high school diploma in less than 6 months. When I stop and think about it I can see some of the years that have passed but for the most part, they passed in a blur (especially with my job and hours) and for that I am very sorry. Life really does go by too fast sometimes.

    I hope someone prints out and puts this post in his/her wallet or purse ... I think it's probably just as good - if not better - than that old letter you had.

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