Friday, February 13, 2009

Lasting impressions

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.

22 comments:

Stimey said...

Great post. Definitely something to think about.

ghkcole said...

I remember the last time I nursed, knowing it was the last time I would nurse, and thinking I could not bear if I knew of many more lasts as they happened.

conuly said...

I think there's a picture book on the subject. One of those that's more for the parents than the kids, you know?

Come to think, it was actually a really depressing book.

Quirky Mom said...

I think about lasts a lot. When Apple weaned I wanted to *know* which time was the last, but in the end, I didn't.

kristenspina said...

Beautiful post. Thank you.

Ange said...

Sometimes I reflect on lasts that I didn't know were lasts...like when Mooser bit me really hard when nursing...he was 3.5 and were ready for it to be time...very bittersweet. Some times I stare really hard at my boys trying to burn a certain image, smile, "last" in my brain, thinking I can control when I want to recall them. Turns out I burn them into my heart and they light fire when I least expect it, sometimes it takes my breath away. Thanks for the post!

Niksmom said...

What a beautiful post. I think we all find ourselves trying to recall those "last" moments along the way. Sometimes they sneak up on us; sometimes they hit like a tidal wave.

Club 166 said...

Thanks for a great post. Sometimes when my kids are snuggled up against me, I wonder about how long it will be before they think that I am hopelessly old fashioned, and all they want to do is get as far as possible away from me.

Joe

Robin said...

it is something I think about all the time. Every time I see a little toddler I think back to when my girls were that age and I do wish I had lingered over some of the things we did or did more of what they wanted to do.
But then I think, ok well instead I think I will try to soak in all that they are now and want to do (doesn't always work but I am trying!)

Chris Ereneta said...

My own sense is that if we spend too much time focusing on the lasts it could make parenting just impossibly sad, as we work towards our children's eventual last night at home.

And to dwell on them too much would encourage us to delay those lasts; to cling to those ties that bind our children to us just one day, one week, one year longer. Because we're not quite ready to let that one thing go.

I think that missing the lasts sounds right. I don't know that it's about rushing forward to the Next Big Thing. Rather it suggests staying focused on life with Bud in the present.

Scrapbooking is, as you say, about preserving our memories, our past, no matter how much we pretend it's about our children. It's something we do when we're not, you know, actually parenting.

Instead I think our children's futures are built upon our days of grumbling nows.

Kitt said...

How thought-provoking. Looking back is always so bittersweet. If you were constantly thinking about something being the last thing, it would be hard to ever be happy.

Drama Mama said...

I am so caught up in my OWN sh*t, that I have to force myself to be in the NOW.

It's a great reminder - this "lasts" concept.

Thanks.

Osh said...

I was just thinking of this last week...did I know when the last time I read him a book before bed? The last time he let me hold himin my arms? The firsts were so rare, and the lasts so few...

kristina said...

I found some baby photos of Charlie (randomly hidden as he had a photo-tearing phase a couple of years ago) and have been spending long moments looking at them. He is not even up to my waist in one photo. It must be something about mom-ness that we want to have a chance to have those "lasts" precisely becaue we know, kids only grow up and bigger and older?

cathy said...

This post, in particular, touched me. I think that all parents can relate to this. The lasts - they slip through your fingers, and it's not until later that you realized how precious it was.

Jordan said...

Wow, I loved this. I think about this a lot, but you have written it so much more coherently than it was in my mind (what a surprise!). I think we'd walk around a bit heartbroken if we knew we were experiencing the "lasts" each time, don't you?

Emily said...

There are some I remember and some I don't. I do remember the last time I nursed TH because it was eventful. Some others...like carrying him down the stairs...I know because of where we lived at the time. What's going to be harder for me in some ways is when our last child, who's now two, does those "last" things, like our last in kindergarten, our last using the crib all three of our boys have used...not looking forward to the day we pack that thing up. Well, I guess in a way I am...because it means I have healthy, thriving children who have outgrown their crib.

KAL said...

What a lovely post.

Nancy said...

Last year for Christmas, I made both my kids a book of my memories of them. I included photos on each page and wrote up the stories of their early childhood -- especially the stories that I wasn't sure I would remember forever. I was glad I'd kept notes back then.

Of all the gifts they got in their stocking, this is the one they keep on their bookshelf by their bed. It means a lot to them.

Dave said...

I hear the meaning of this post when parents with older kids say "that's a great age". I have kids from two to nine years old and it began to seem that any age my kids were was great. And, by implication, the age of the kids that the other parent had was not so "great." I have sometimes had the urge to say, "It is a great age... yours too" to pull them back to the present.

Giraffe's Song said...

Wow, this post came close to bringing me to tears. I have a 2.5-year-old (autistic) daughter and a 9-month-old daughter, and this hit home with me. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I cry wonderful tears whenever I read it. Thank you.