My son just graduated from middle school – one of the “lasts” we parents see coming, even if we still can’t believe it. It reminded me of this essay I wrote seven years ago, which still rings true. What about you?
My almost seven-year-old son duly informed me this week that he’s grown out of Sesame Street. It’s not often you get notice that your child has done something for the last time. Firsts are noted and even diligently recorded: his first steps, first word, first tooth in and first tooth lost. But the lasts usually go out gradually and with such stealth that it’s months before you realize they don’t happen anymore.
When was the last time I was able to carry him around? The last time he wanted help with his socks? The last time I squeezed his chunky legs before they became the beanpoles they are now? It was just a couple of weeks ago when we were taking turns reading chapters from Henry Huggins and he said, “We haven’t done this in a while,” that it occurred to me he was right. I had read to him every night since he was a baby until he graduated to chapter books and started to prefer reading on his own. When did the switch happen? I’m not quite sure. We're happy to see our kids growing up, but can't they tell us when they do?
For the most part the lasts will be unknown but now I am keeping my antenna up. Those evenings he still wants to cuddle next to me with a book, I especially cherish. When he blasts his CD’s from his bedroom, I still ask him to turn down the volume, but it does make me stop and think how quiet the house will be the day he’s old enough to leave the nest. And that makes listening for the hundredth time to the Kids Bop version of Yellow Submarine just a little less cringe-worthy.
I must admit there are some lasts I won’t feel too bittersweet about. The last time he shows me what the half-chewed food looks like in his mouth? I can let that go. The last time he wipes his Dorito orange fingers on his pants? I don’t think I’ll be wistfully sighing at the loss of that particular habit. But the last time he’ll kiss me in public and not be embarrassed by it? That one will be a heart breaker. So just in case, I kiss him twice.