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The Firsts and the Lasts of It All

Making the most of moments with your little ones.

First time eating solids. First time they roll over. First step. First word. First time they pedal a trike, tell a joke, get a fever, go to school, shoot a basket, make the honor roll—childhood is full of firsts. The world is unfolding for our little ones. It’s full of everything new.

Of course, we share in our children’s firsts. We cheer them on, snap a photo, and sometimes remember to write it down. But parenthood, whether we realize it or not, is also full of a lot of lasts. And they roll by without even a whisper.

There was a last time that I rocked a baby to sleep. And a last time that a child wanted to snuggle during a thunderstorm. There was a last time I pushed the stroller, helped a toddler into dress-up clothes, tied a shoe, and caught them as they jumped into the city pool.

I never knew it was the last time. That moment was like every other moment in motherhood—here, there, and on to the next thing. It’s only looking back that those lost “lasts” are precious. They were the points when my children pushed forward, and when my role as mama turned into mommy, and then into Mommmmmm.

Here are some ideas—for moms, aunties, grandmas, and all the amazing women who help raise the children in our communities—for making the most of the “firsts,” the “lasts,” and everything in between:

Capture the everyday stuff. It turns out my favorite photos are not the staged holiday shots in special outfits. My favorites are ones that take me back to the everyday moments that I’ve forgotten. The image of my toddler sound asleep on the dog bed. The picture of 4-year-old feet tucked into high-top sneakers with flames on the sides. The snap of what I found in my 7-year-old’s pockets one day (a rock, a single Lego, a bottle cap, a piece of mulch).

Find your family traditions. It’s been a surprise to see that my kids take as much joy in our traditions as young adults as they did when they were children. It gives me a peek into how these might live on someday in their own families. So whatever your traditions are, keep them up even as the babies grow taller than you. Make the “special” cookies. Play football after Thanksgiving dinner. Set out the s’mores. Decorate their chair on birthdays. You are building their memories of what a family is and does.

And—don’t be afraid to change your traditions. For a while, we would ask our kids during dinner to share one “rose” (a good thing that happened) and one “thorn” (a bad thing that happened) that day. While they were in elementary school, this was a great way to get conversations going. Then, in middle school: game over. One day, my son said his “thorn” was having to do “roses and thorns.” Sigh. Every tradition evolves, and so did this one.

Let your kids know how much they’re loved. There are so many ways to show our children how cherished they are. When they’re little, hugs and kisses and praise often come easily. As they grow, we can find ourselves spending more time talking about the state of their bedroom than their amazing sense of humor or their kindness to the new kid on the team. That’s why I still give each of my teens a quick snuggle and say I love you before I head to bed. For all the nights of their lives, I know the last words they heard me say offered love.

The magic is in the everyday moments. Sometimes we get in a place where we think it’s the big stuff that matters most to our kids—holiday gifts, birthdays, you name it. But when you ask kids what their favorite memories are? They’re usually regular days that turned memorable—like the time our dog ate all the biscuits that were set aside for dinner (well, technically, she left one). So here is a reminder to focus on the little things—because that’s what our lives are made of.

Those everyday moments—they’re bursting with firsts, and lasts too, if we pause and notice. Thornton Wilder writes in his play Our Town: “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” On this Mother’s Day, may your day be full of the most potent, most everyday, magic.


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