I’ve been thinking lately about all of the ways that we mark milestones in our kids’ lives. We celebrate their first smile, food, tooth, and word. We take tons of pictures when they first sit up, and try to catch that moment on video when they take that first wobbly step. We might complete baby books each month, or fill school year scrapbooks with “first day” pictures. (Or at least we’ve done it all for the first child. Right? Let’s be real. Sorry Evelyn!)
It’s August, so that means that Pinterest is chock full of “first day of school” ideas right now. Celebrating the firsts is important, and can be a great way to start family traditions, but that’s not what this post is about. Because coupled with every first, usually comes a last. We anticipate and mark and measure every first as our kids grow up, but we often miss the lasts.
For the past year or so, Charlee’s bedtime routine has been thus: three books, two songs, a prayer, and a back rub. Every night the songs have been “He’s got the whole world in His hands”, and “Willoughby Wallaby Woo.” If you are not familiar with “Willoughboy Wallaby Woo,” let me explain this fine piece of song composition to you. (By the way, you can blame Raffi for this).
The lyrics are as follows:
Willoughby Wallaby Woo, an elephant sat on you // Willoughby Wallaby Wee, an elephant sat on me, // (now here is where you insert someone’s name, replacing the first consonant of their name with a /W/) Willoughby Wallaby Warlee, an elephant sat on …..Charlee // Willoughby Wallaby Wevie, an elephant sat on… Evie.
You might be thinking, “Aw, what a cute bedtime ritual!” And you would be right. If that’s where the song ended. However, the song continued with all family members, often friends, and, if we were particularly unlucky that night, pets and stuffed animals. I admit that countless nights at bedtime, I attempted to omit or abbreviate the song. I tried immediate family only. I tried “four people because you’re four!” but nothing worked. It was always a long, drawn-out litany of various people being sat upon by the elephant.
As I started thinking about this topic of lasts, I realized that Charlee hasn’t asked for her songs in a few days. I can’t remember which night was the last night that I sang about that dang elephant, but I can bet I was probably frustrated and singing half heartedly, wishing she would just go to sleep on her own. Looking back, if I had known it was the last night, I would have sung with gusto and even thrown in some extra verses for good measure.
I can’t remember the last time I nursed Evelyn, or the last time she fell asleep on me and I’m not sure when the last time was that Charlee said “polka pocket” instead of “polka dot.” There are lots of lasts like this throughout childhood, pre-teendom, and teenage years that we don’t know are happening until after the fact.
However, there are also “anticipated” lasts. There are natural transition times throughout kids’ lives that we know are coming, and that we can prepare for. This isn’t about mourning the lasts that we miss, it’s about celebrating the lasts that we can anticipate.
This year Charlee will be starting VPK, so last Friday was her last “Mommy Day.” (I don’t work on Fridays, so she has always called it that). Since we won’t have this time together weekly anymore, we planned a special trip to the Children’s Museum, swam in Grandma’s pool, and had a pizza and movie night. I’m still going to miss my time with her, but I’m glad that I got to mark our last Mommy Day in a meaningful way.
Do you have lasts coming up in your life or your kids’ lives that you are dreading? Maybe it’s a last day at home before they start Kindergarten. Or the last day you’ll drive them to school before they start driving themselves. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, it’s normal to be nervous or anxious about transitions. It’s also expected that you will mourn the end of a phase as a new one begins. But take a look at that last, and be thankful that you know it’s coming. And find a way to celebrate it.