I've been thinking lately about the way we parents record and preserve our memories of our children's milestones. I think about the things in Bud's baby book, meticulously recorded through the early weeks, months, and years of his life - the first time he smiled, the first time he laughed, the first time he rolled over, the first time he sat up, the first time he crawled, the first time he walked.
As Bud gets older, though, I sometimes find myself reflecting less on the firsts, and more on the lasts. I don't have any record of the lasts - probably because the lasts happened while I wasn't looking. I didn't realize they'd never happen again when I grumbled through them or zipped past them or moved mechanically through their motions. So now I look at my big, heavy nine year old boy and I think about how I used to carry him down the stairs for breakfast every morning and I recognize that I would not be able to carry him down the stairs today if I tried. And I wonder: when was the last time that I carried Bud down the stairs? Why didn't I cherish that moment, breathe in the smell of it, imprint it on my heart? Why didn't I recognize that it was a last?
And there are so many other lasts: the last time he nursed, the last time he rode on my shoulders, the last time he sat in a shopping cart seat, the last time I picked him up and twirled him upside down. There must have been a last time for each of them, right? But I have no memory of any of them.
And then, of course, I wonder: what are the lasts that I'm missing right now? What has Bud done for the last time this year, this month, this week, this day, that I will only recognize in retrospect is missing, but will not remember having ended?
I suppose this is how childhood works - how life works. We rush eagerly forward to the next check-point, the next marker, the Next Big Thing. Maybe we're programmed that way for a reason. Maybe our kids need us to push them forward and not hold them back while we linger over the things they'll leave behind.
And maybe, for parents, it's in the moving forward, the pushing onward, and the celebration of challenges met - maybe it's in the growth and change, in the hurdles and transitions, in the Look How Far We've Comes - maybe it's in the painstaking preservation of all of those milestone firsts, that we really make childhood last.