There are more firsts than we can keep up with when our children are born…first born, first bottle and solid food, first time she slept through the night – that was always my favorite first – first steps which leads into the first run and tricycle ride…those of you who are parents know how long this list is. They happen so fast, one right on top of the other that we start to miss them; we don’t write them in the baby books anymore and before we know it, the last of the childhood firsts have come and gone and we start to celebrate, and hopefully, recognize the lasts.
I have just experienced this with my oldest child who started college this fall. I found myself standing in a quiet kitchen , late at night, making one in what seemed to be an endless series of sandwiches for her lunch. The task had become mindless, something I had been doing every night for the last 13 years – get out the whole wheat bread, the turkey and the cheddar or the peanut butter and honey, bag up the pretzels and wash the apples or grapes (which she probably threw away more often than she ate, but let’s face it, putting the fruit in her lunch made me feel good) and then putting it neatly into a brown bag for her to stuff into her backpack the next day. On one of these nights this past spring, I realized I was doing this for a limited amount of time whereas a few short years ago it felt like I’d be doing it for the rest of my life. All of those lunches were an unusual measure of marking the days, weeks and months of a childhood that was fast approaching an end of sorts. When I started packing lunches I never dreamed there would be a “last time I’m making lunch for Emily” moment but there was and I had arrived, crumbs on my hands and fingers sticky with honey; here it was - the last one. I should somehow make it significant, make this lunch the best one I’d ever made! I’ll put her favorites in there and give her an extra cookie and write an extra line or two on the note I sporadically slipped into the bag. By the way, what did you do with those notes after you read them, Emily?
It may seem odd to mark the rapid days of childhood by the making of a PB&H, as unrelated as they seem to be, but it was a bittersweet event that held significance. It helped me to recall the last day of 5th and 2nd grades for my daughters; that morning we walked on the sidewalk on La Serena, Rancho Elementary on the hill above us, I was in the middle and held both of their small hands. I remember recognizing how different that walk was as it was the last day they’d be in the same school until senior and freshman year in high school…I also remember thinking that was light years away! That day got here faster than I imagined possible, as most of them do. (Note… I didn’t walk with them to school that last day as they drove away together in a car which is another story!) Even though I tried to recognize and be present in the moments that I knew were going to matter – first tooth loss, first trip to the beach, first time…just fill in the blank – I know I missed some and that’s what I thought about that night in the dark and quiet kitchen but it was about what I was going to be missing now that she was leaving home. I was fortunate enough to see or at least hear about most of the first times she and her sister did anything but now she’d be out on her own experiencing a whole slew of firsts without me. Moments like oversleeping a class, going to a college football game with a group of friends, all night study sessions and long nights of other things I probably don’t want to know about; I wouldn’t be a part of these but I knew it was okay because each of the firsts I watched prepared her for the next one and the next one and finally for what she was about to do. College! Is she ready to live without direct supervision, to handle finances and laundry and eating right? Did I do everything I was supposed to do, what did I forget? It didn’t matter because it was happening. You know why it didn’t matter? I taught her how to make good choices and decisions and I tried my best, not always successfully, to model the same good sense and her time was here; she was on.
The days leading up to the big dorm room move in were filled with so much activity I barely had time to feel sad but then it arrived – early in the morning – and we went to breakfast with her younger sister who started her sophomore year of high school that same week. It was another chance for me to absorb that moment as it held a last and a first and everything in between; so I did. I looked at my daughters with pride and happiness and felt indescribably grateful to be their mother. We laughed and lovingly gave each other a hard time and made the short trip to the high school where the younger one climbed out of the backseat, the last time she was relegated there since her sister went to college actually, and off the 2 of us went to load the car and drive to San Diego. As expected, there was a certain amount of sadness but it was balanced by how excited I was for what she was about to experience. And that is when I realized the significance of THAT moment…she was perfectly ready and prepared for everything and I knew this because all along the way, I’d been watching her make the right choices and do the right thing. It was the other side of the firsts and lasts; seeing the results and success of my dedication, heart, soul and tears and I didn’t need to worry so much, ok I was going to worry no matter what, but I could rest knowing she was going to be fine.
Ansley is an occasional contributor to Patch.com. She is a yoga teacher who specializes in yoga therapy and she lives in Temecula. Ansley considers this experience to be one of many beautiful MOMents she has shared with her 2 daughters; you can find more of these MOMents on her website, www.thatyogagirl.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org