A new baby causes a family to focus on a bunch of "firsts." First smile, first solid food, first tooth (which happened for Darcey this week), first steps. As kids get older, we have first days of school, first time driving, first dates. Firsts are easy to note, because they happen once and you can write it on the calendar and even have anniversaries for them.
I feel like we neglect the other end of the spectrum, the "lasts." Not in a sad, "last time I saw my spouse before he died in a fiery car crash" kind of last, but in every day things. Noah brought this to my attention last week when he said, "Mom, have you noticed that I haven't had to go to time out in a long time?" I hadn't noticed at all, as a matter of fact, which is a horrible thing. How many times did I consider moving his bed into the time-out room just to make it more convenient, given the fact that he was in there so often? And now that time out is a distant memory, I didn't even notice. When was the last time he was in there? Shouldn't that be cause for massive celebrating? It should, but because it's a last and not a first, it goes unremarked.
The problem is, it's just so hard to tell when something is going to be a last. When I left home at 18, my mom says she knew I wouldn't move back home, even though that was the plan. In some ways I'm glad I had moving to California as a temporary thing, with going home as the back-up plan so that the plunge didn't seem so dramatic. But on the other hand, I missed marking a lot of lasts. The last Christmas at home. The last Sunday afternoon grilled-cheese sandwiches made by my dad after church. The last evening I'd spend with my high school friends who, for the most part, I haven't kept in contact with.
So even though I may not have a date circled on the calendar, I want to start noting the lasts. I want to pay attention to the last time I have to use the "car cart" at the grocery store. The last $25 jumbo box of diapers I buy from Costco, and the last jar of baby food. The last time I make dinner that no one eats, preferring cold cereal instead. (I know, wishful thinking, as is this - the last time a child wakes me up in the middle of the night!)
I am hoping that today is the last time I wake up to the sound of glass breaking. Zack had poured himself a bowl of cereal in a glass bowl, and knocked it onto the floor, so within 10 seconds of waking up I was clearing shards off the floor and mopping up Froot Loops and milk. Not the kind of lazy Sunday morning I would have envisioned when I didn't have kids.
My guess is I have not dealt with my last blow-out diaper, the last potty-related accident, the last tantrum in a public place, the last time I have to stand outside a restaurant while a child screams. I am looking forward to the last time I have to wipe someone else's runny nose. Darcey has a cold and is draining so badly that if snot could grow crops, our cul-de-sac could be the new Fertile Crescent.
All of these lasts are milestones, just as much as the firsts. It's a sign that these kids are growing up. Most of the lasts are great - I can't tell you the last time I had to change wet sheets off the older two boys' beds, and I love that it's been so long. There's a bittersweet trade-off with every last - I realized yesterday that I've had the last time I can comfortably hold Brad's hand in a parking lot, but Ryan got to watch him and Noah as they went up the chairlift by themselves for the first time. I'll eventually trade the 2 a.m. "Mom, I threw up!" for the 2 a.m. phone calls that can never be good news.
But I'm okay with all of that. In fact, I'm grateful that I'm aware of the lasts, so I can appreciate them as they come, and as the stages of childhood pass that those lasts marked. So maybe like a mother who forgot to record her baby's firsts grabs a calendar and starts randomly putting in dates for first roll over and first word, I'll arbitrarily assign a date for Noah's last time out. That is something worth throwing a party over. (Now, can someone predict when I'll have bought the very last Star Wars item??)