Tomorrow will be the last day of school for Tim. It will also be the last day of school for this mom, and this family, marking the end of an era. Tomorrow I will get up, make my last school breakfast and pack my last school lunch. I will send my (not so) little one off for his last day of high school. A week ago, we watched his last choral concert and celebrated our last music awards. Next week, we will sit through our final academic awards ceremony and we will enjoy our last high school graduation ceremony, with all its smiles and tears. It is but one of the many “lasts” that one experiences as the parent of the baby of the family who is growing up and heading off to college in the fall. Not much is written about the “lasts”, particularly when one considers exactly how saturated the media is with a child’s “firsts”– the first smile, the first steps, the first birthday, the first day of school. You can hardly throw a rock without coming across an article either making parents feel guilty or worried about those “firsts” – will you miss them, will you do the right thing when they happen, will you be there to preserve that first for all eternity?
Hardly anyone talks about the “lasts” associated with parenthood, but they are just as important. For many of us they signify a parental transition from moms and dads of school age children to empty nesters with kids off in the real world. I won’t lie, there is sadness in seeing 18 years of a set pattern of child raising ending and a comfortable routine coming to an end. Despite my occasional grumblings, for this mom, there will be no more high school concerts, no awards ceremonies, no prepping school lunches, signing homework or permission slips, baking for bake sales, and writing absence notes. No more need to juggle school, music and social calendars along with work obligations and meetings. Those days come to a screeching halt with the last day of school. It is sad, it is hard and it can make you cry (and it has for this mom).
However, in my effort to see things in a positive light, the “lasts” are also a celebration. These “lasts” have their own story to tell. It is a beautiful story. The “firsts” speak of the foray into parenthood; they speak of the newness, the anxiety, the unknown and the awkwardness of being a first time parent with all the worry and sleepless nights that are yet to come.
The “lasts” though, they celebrate a job well done. The lasts signify that we are survivors. We have endured our children’s friendships, broken bones, illnesses, academic challenges, teenage angst, stresses and broken hearts. We have survived the teenage years (for the most part) without strangling anyone, especially our children. We have lived through our children learning to drive and stayed up waiting on curfews and the sound of a car pulling into a driveway, signifying a safe arrival home. We have laughed, cried, worried, yelled, fought and smiled through all those years of being a parent. All those years between the “firsts” and the present. We have come out the other side of high school with young men and young women we can be so very proud of as human beings. We can sit back (just for a bit) and be amazed that these wonderful, kind, thoughtful, beautiful, giving, intelligent creatures came from our wombs. We can beam as our babies walk down the aisle for graduation. We can enjoy the felling of having our hearts swell 100x their size with pride and know that we have played a most instrumental part in shaping the young men and women that our children have become. We can send them off into the world knowing that we have done our best.
These “lasts” are wonderful memories of accomplishments and memories. They should be reveled in and celebrated as we embark on a new era in our, and our children’s, lives. Happy “lasts” to all of you and yours!