From the first time to the last time: A mum's parenting realisation

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"Each 'last' in childhood heralds the beginning of a 'first'. The beauty of it all is the blurring of the boundaries between these many firsts and lasts, as they merge into interlinked, precious, emotion-heavy memories."

I knew this would happen.

I was warned by more experienced mums when I had my first child. "Time will fly," they told me gently, with a wise nod of their heads." "Before you know it, he'll be in school," they said. I nodded along with them, but didn't want to believe that time could really go by so fast. 

I did believe them when they told me I would marvel at all the 'firsts.' Their words of 'cherish every moment' still ring true. 

How can I forget the first time each of my children smiled that baby smile of pure innocence and love for the very first time? The first time they looked at me with recognition that I am their mother?

The first hug, the first time each of them rolled over, their first steps, first words, first teeth, the first time they made me cry tears of happiness, sadness, pride, anger. The list of firsts is never-ending and each of them is etched in my mind. 

But one day this thought hit me like a punch to my heart: the firsts will come to an end, replaced by lasts. And sure enough, it started. 

"No Mummy, I can do it," was what my youngest son said one day when I wanted to brush his teeth. And that was the last time I ever did so.

"Drop me here Mummy, I can go by myself," said my older boy one day, and that was the last time I ever walked him into his classroom, his warm little hand firmly grasped in mine. The series of 'last times' went on.  

I panicked. There would be no more firsts... how could my little boys be growing up this fast? Would these 'lasts' replace all the 'firsts?' 

No. 

Because each time one of my sons did something created out of comfortable routines and memories for the last time, it was also the first time he was trying out something new. It was the first time he was stepping into uncharted  waters. It was the first of many character-building moments. 

The day my boy walked himself to class alone — it was his first real experience and expression of self-confidence, and feeling of assurance in the safety of his environment. 

When I brushed my little boy's teeth for the last time, it was also the first time he took ownership of his body and assured me and showed me that he could do things all by himself. Sure, it was just a simple little task. But to him it was huge and so, it was to me too. 

I now realise that there are never any real 'last times' in parenthood. Every single moment, every little step your child takes, every experience, is a first in some way.

It's true, you won't ever experience the exact feeling you got when your baby flashed a gummy smile at you for the first time, or when you saw a hint of pearly whiteness in his gums, telling you that his first tooth was about to pop out. But you'll experience that high all over again, in a brand new way, when his 'big boy' teeth push out for the first time. 

And so, like this, you'll experience a brand new series of 'firsts' and 'lasts' as your child grows... and so will he.  

There will be a last time he holds your hand in public, and the first time he holds the hand of the girl he loves.

There will be a last time he sleeps in his own bedroom with the superhero stickers on the walls. And there will be a first time he ventures out into the wide world, no longer a child, already an adult, and sleeps elsewhere for the first time. The last tear you shed as he leaves and the first tear of absolute pride at his achievements. 

Parents, each 'last' in childhood heralds the beginning of a 'first'. The beauty of it all is the blurring of the boundaries between these many firsts and lasts, as they merge into interlinked, precious, emotion-heavy memories.

And at the same time, some things never end. 

There will never be an end to your love for your child. There will never be an end to the mother-child bond you share. And some day, when your child becomes a parent, the cycle of firsts and lasts will be reborn. 

That's the bittersweet beauty of parenting that you and I know. This will never end. 

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