Saturday, February 03, 2018

Lasts, Firsts, and the Joy in Between

A few weeks back, the afternoon forecast called for sleet and I asked JT to ride with me to school so that I could drive him home after wrestling practice.  I try to be a courageous mama when my boy is behind the wheel, but sleet in the dark was more than my heart could bear.

For the better part of the last 14 years, we have driven to school together.  Since he got his license and his car, it’s been easier for JT to drive himself to school.  It allows him to sleep in a little later (or leave early for a 6 am run on the towpath at school…..I am not kidding), and otherwise makes things easier on us both.  It was something of an epiphany for me to be able to go to the gym and then head home, rather than rush back to school anxious that I would get there before his practice had ended.

As we drove home on that icy afternoon, I idly wondered if it would be the last ride to school we would make together.  He’s been my commuter companion since the Fall of 2003.  First, as a three year old in a car seat with his binky, his blanket, and an assortment of the things he collected in his pockets; then as a little boy in a booster seat, singing along with the car radio and angling for a toasted coconut donut from Dunkin’ Donuts.  Later, he was my front seat companion, choosing a music playlist or bemoaning my NPR-listening ways.  For the last few years, he was my teenage companion, putting on headphones and pulling his hoody over his head.

In short, we’ve ridden many miles together.  On that icy Monday, afternoon I wondered how many more rides to school we would make together.  A dozen?  A few?  None?  Had I just made my last mama-and-her-boy school commute?  

There are so many lasts in the world of parenting —— the last time my baby crawled; the last time he used his binky; the last time I read him a story before he went to sleep; the last time he played in the backyard sprinkler.  And yet, when it comes to a child, these “lasts” are expected, even sought.  I’m not the only parent who has no memory of these lasts; they were part of the always-changing landscape of a child growing up.  After all, giving up crawling is how a child walks.  And so many of those lasts were followed by thrilling new firsts.

It feels like a different landscape as I envision 2018, which will find my son heading away from home, moving away to college.  The “lasts” that will precede the move to college seem like they should be more momentous.  But I’m aware that focusing on the “lasts” puts me at risk for worrying so much about them that I lose sight of the “now.”  And so I redirect my thoughts to the happiness in the moment.

From the very first time I held him in my arms, I’ve known that’s it’s my job to raise an independent human being, one who can take on the challenges and joys of life with perseverance and confidence.  That means finding happiness and becoming his own person.  That means changes and new things.  It means there will be some lasts in life.

For me, getting my son to that independence meant making sure he knew that he was loved beyond measure, so that he could head out in the world confident in his value as a person.  I’ve had 18 years to show that love by building memories and traditions together.  In this season of transition, as so many “lasts” occur, I’m determined to live in the moment, sure in the knowledge that though 18 years passed by at the speed of light, there are still so many firsts yet to come.

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