Firsts and lasts


My first baby and my last baby, February 2005

Years ago Whit remarked, in his now-classic casually offhand yet startlingly insightful way, that while Grace gets to have all the firsts in our family, he gets to have all the lasts.

And they just keep coming, firsts and lasts, piled on top of each other in a pile that grows so high it teeters and sometimes threatens to swamp me.

Last week at bedtime Grace was wistful and sad.  I scooted into her bed next to hear and leaned back against her pillow.  I asked her what was wrong.  She looked at me and let her tears come.  “Why does it have to go so fast?  I don’t want to grow up.  There are only one and a half years left of my childhood.”

“Wait a second!” My breath caught in my throat.  “What?  Why do you say that?”

“Well until I’m a teenager.”

Holy shit. I looked at her face, speechless.  I smoothed her hair behind her ear and watched her big, deep brown eyes as they studied me.  How many first are left?  I know there are so many ahead but there are also so many behind us.  So many firsts we’ll never have again.  I looked up at a self-portrait she made at age 3 in nursery school, when she was in the Yellow Room, which hangs over her bed.  Time telescoped and collapsed on itself.  I felt dizzy as all the hours, nights, weeks, and years that I have spent in this room with Grace, and all that we will never have back sudden filled the room, pressing in on me, and I couldn’t breathe.

The next morning I woke Whit up, and as I do every morning I knelt next to his bed and watched him for a few moments.  His entire life was visible in his sleeping face.  The scar by his eye from stitches on Christmas Eve 2010, which marked his second Christmas Eve in the Children’s Hospital ER in six years.  The blond hair that had so surprised me when he arrived.  The profile which I recognized from his ultrasound image, so many years ago.

So many lasts.  When I got Whit a new pair of sneakers last week I cried getting rid of the old ones, thinking: I won’t ever buy size 1 Nikes again.  In nine months I won’t have any children in the single digits.  Whit’s years as a Mite in hockey are over now.

The lasts are especially poignant because he is the last last.

I know.  I know.  There are so many new horizons to explore, so, so many firsts, experiences and adventures to share.  I know.  But still.  There are also so many lasts.  So many hours, days, weeks, and years that I can never get back.

This is truly the story I can’t stop telling, the song I can’t stop singing, the ringing bell whose echoes I can’t stop hearing.

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  1. Isabelle
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    Oh this resonates. As the mom of an only every first is also a last.

    admin Reply:

    Without a doubt the thing that’s surprised me most about parenthood is how painfully bittersweet it is. xox

  2. Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    We are nearing our very last day of elementary school here. After over a dozen years of having at least one in elementary, part of me is very ready and part very not.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, wow. Yes. Unready and ready at the same time. Perhaps my most common state!

  3. Posted April 30, 2014 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I am feeling these same things. Katherine turned 8 a few weeks ago and it just doesn’t sound right. How can my baby be 8? And to think that Grace only has one and a half years until teenage-hood? I do love that you have taught her to appreciate these days though- that is precious and hard to do.

    admin Reply:

    I hope it’s a good thing … I fret that I’ve made her over-conscious of time’s passage and therefore too keenly attuned to life’s sorrows. But maybe that’s inherent and I have nothing to do with it (genetically, yes, but not behaviorally). Who knows. xox

  4. Posted April 30, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I felt this deep in my heart as I read it. I can’t take enough pictures or video these days. I keep seeing them grow, literally over night.

    If there were an ‘age freezing’ option, we are there. Ages 9 & 7.

    This motherhood thing is not what I expected and everything I’d hoped at the same time. It’s great to know there are others that feel the depth of it all.

    Thank you, Lindsey.

    admin Reply:

    7 and 9 was pretty darned magical. I say something very similar about my whole life, actually, that it is exactly as I planned and nothing like I expected. Same true for sure of motherhood. The surprises keep coming, though, that’s for sure. xox

  5. Posted April 30, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Oh, I get it. The gift of motherhood that gives and takes.

    admin Reply:

    OH, yes. I was unprepared for that, I admit. xox

  6. Posted April 30, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Oh, Lindsey,

    I remember too well the emotions you describe with such tender clarity here. When the heart struggles between love and loss, joy and sadness, firsts and lasts, what can be said to assuage the pain? Those who confess inner turmoil are typically handed some cheery platitude – as if a cheery platitude can “fix” a trembling heart. I’ll offer you no wise words this morning to persuade you to feel other than you do. What I will say, however, is that I continue to feel you’re doing a lovely job of raising your first and your last. I love that Grace treasures her childhood, that she recognizes how precious, and how fleeting, it is. How beautiful, and how rare. Thank you for this poignant reminder that life, every moment of it, is to be cherished. xoxo

  7. Posted April 30, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Oh, so bittersweet indeed! I am crushed by all the future heart crushing moments to be endured (along with all the uplifting ones, too, of course). I had no idea that having kids would be such a wrenching journey.

  8. Posted April 30, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I’m in your boat, Lindsey. I’m trying to figure out how to not hold on with such a tight grasp to things that have passed and are passing. I think I was simply born this way, though. It’s in my nature to feel melancholy about it. Even as a girl, I remember having this same feeling about history–I loved learning about the Civil War, for instance, and I had this keen sense of sadness over time gone.

  9. Posted April 30, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Oh how I get this on every level, from the actual events to the writing about it in what feels to be an endless stream of emotion. Beautiful reflection Lindsey. xo

  10. Posted April 30, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    As the mother of one, all of our first and lasts are intertwined.

    I so appreciate your writing about motherhood and about the poignancy of this adventure — and also the poignancy of feeling nostalgia for one’s own life even as it happens in realtime.

  11. Anna
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Ah, the beautiful, painful sting, the blinding brilliance of being a witness as these little beings “become”.

    My son is 4 and a half, my daughter 2 next month, and as we waffle and falter over whether she is a middle or a last, each milestone becomes more poignant. Although the art of parenting their next decade will be the art of letting go, I can’t imagine actually doing that.

  12. Nancy
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I am 45 and have three daughters, ages 18, 15 and 11 1/2. My oldest just finished her first year of college. My middle daughter her first year of high school. And my youngest is finishing 5th grade — her last year before middle school. I feel this collapsing of first and lasts too … in a never-ending cascade it seems. Because my children are each exactly four years apart in school — and maybe because they are all girls — I have a strange sensation of the carousel turning past sights I have seen — but others that change and warp as they pass by.

    It is a wild ride this gift of motherhood. A wild, indescribable, blessed and joyous ride.

  13. Posted May 1, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, I’m in the same place. Sometimes the firsts and lasts are so painful I can hardly bear it…sometimes it takes every ounce of strength I have to get through those moments.

  14. Posted May 1, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I found you through a comment on Ivy League Insecurities about your fear of missing your life which resonated with me. No surprise then, that I have gobbled up your posts, especially the ones with the ‘story you keep telling’. Also looked you up in Instagram and am so enthralled with the hashtag ‘yearsareminutes’ that I may be compeled to start using it. I am early on in this journey – with a 21mo son – but we are precariously close to trying for #2 (with nothing set in stone for more) so I find myself very nostalgic, wondering if I can really let go of babyhood and toddlerhood after two kids or not. Anyway just wanted to announce my internet creep status 🙂 and say thank you for putting words to my recent awareness and reflection.

  15. Posted May 2, 2014 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    I’m feeling this with Nate now that I know for sure he is my last.

  16. Posted May 2, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Holy Hell Yes. Yes. Yes. That quiver in my heart, the crush of emotion with wings fluttering, the ache and the love and the hurt and the joy. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  17. Posted May 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    We can’t have any more without moving forward.

    And how tender to move slowly toward an era when they have new firsts, without us so near and we float gently into new firsts, and maybe seconds, with our partners who helped write these stories in the first place.

  18. Posted May 6, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    This post touches me to the core. My children are only kindergarteners but I already cry at all the lasts!