When the “Lasts” Start to Pile Up Focus on the Firsts

I drove my son to school for the last time yesterday. He has his license now and we’re lucky enough to have an extra car so there he was today, excited and “all grown up” in his mind; walking out of the house with the car keys on a lanyard. He is our youngest so whilst I’ve experienced these “lasts” before with the other boys this is my first time realizing it is really the last time.

The “lasts” have really started to pile up.

high school football senior night
The last high school football game (photography by Janet Proscia Bautch)

My Youngest Son is a Senior in High School

It’s super easy to get caught up in them, the lasts I mean. I remember reading that at some point you will pick your child off the ground to hug them for the last time. At some point you’ll give them their last bubble bath, read them their last book, wake them up for school for the last time, give them their last time out, help them with their last homework assignment and take the last photo of their proms, games, dances, homecoming.

It’s so hard.

Of course there is pride, and joy as they step forward and move to the next accomplishment. There is a sense of well-being that they are strong enough and confident enough to take on the world. The boys (what I really mean is the men), are moving forward with greater speed and a greater sense of strength and power than I ever had growing up. They really know their value and have a path they want to take. Their firsts are becoming my lasts.

I realize with every step they grow away, they have a choice as to whether or not they’ll come back. They decide how often, and for what occasions. After #1 came home for his first break from college he was a bit melancholy when he went back to school. He and so many of his friends felt and knew things at home were different now. Not in a bad way necessarily, but they realized their relationship with home had changed. They were living a different life and it all happened so quickly. My son and his friends understood things were different.

I don’t like it.

But I accept it and appreciate that each time they come back it’s a compliment to us. I’ve learned to celebrate “firsts” instead of lamenting “lasts.” I’ve learned to celebrate the text I receive when my fourth arrives safely at school. I celebrate the video chat I receive when #2 is baking cookies for his college fundraiser at Virginia Tech.

“Does this look right mom?”

I celebrate when #3 at George Mason University is cooking fried rice and wants me to walk him through the steps. And I embrace the text I get after his first bite:

“This is SO good.”

I can’t focus on the sad. We are coming together this weekend to go to our youngest son’s senior night for football. The last high school football game for our family, but the first time we get to walk out on the field together (minus one who is four hours away and can’t get off work) to show our support for our youngest son and brother.

Lasts are hard. They sometimes take my breath away. But firsts are exciting and fresh and exactly what growing up is all about. I’m thankful we want to be together. I’m thankful they are excited to bring their significant others to our gatherings, and that we can embrace new friends into our family experience. I’m thankful that we can talk about almost everything now with a sense of trust borne of years of hard work and connection.

Those boys have grown into the men we hoped they would. I am sad that I didn’t appreciate the last time I said their prayers with them, the last reading of “Never Tease a Weasel,” or the last time they ran into my arms and I picked them up and turned around giving them a hug.

I still miss the giggles of the bubble baths, the sweet good night kisses and bedtime whispers. But now I trust in the firsts and although they are different they still provide me with smiles and the strength to believe that one day it will be okay.

I’m watching more closely for the firsts now.

I certainly would hate to miss those.

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Dianne Flett headshotDianna Flett is a leader, entrepreneur and mother of four boys. Her goal in life is to not raise jerks and to always choose a path that will provide lessons to help her boys “grow away.” After a successful career as an Army Officer, Dianna, a decorated combat veteran, uses her military training time and again to find approaches and techniques to navigate parenting leadership challenges. She also drinks wine when needed. Dianna’s life has taken her from the battlefield, to the PTO, to the FBI and now to continued service as CEO and facilitator of a program she created called Girl Smarts. Always on the front lines, she hopes to share her thoughts in a way to provide vision and solace to other parents looking to survive on the parenting battlefield.

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