I’m currently in what you’d call the deep trenches of parenting. It’s that ultra-chaotic, messy, testing, challenging time where you’re dealing with little people with big feelings who more often than not have other ideas whenever it comes to everything you want them to do. Case in point: just this morning alone I’ve had to deal with a temper tantrum because my eldest son didn’t want to wear shorts with buttons, while my youngest son had a meltdown because I vetoed his choice of chocolate as breakfast food.
It’s because of these moments that I often find myself bouncing back and forth between moments of just wanting my sons to grow up (no more toilet training dramas! Sleep ins!) or wanting to freeze them at a certain age forever because they’re being so darn cute.
The hardest times however, are the moments that make me pause and cause a deep ache in in my heart. They’re the moments when I realise that it will be the last time one of my kids will do something for the first time. The last firsts.
I remember my youngest son taking his first steps and as thrilled as I was at seeing the delight on his face, it also dawned on me that that moment had passed and it would never happen again.
From the moment they were born, I’ve experienced this each time they’ve reached a milestone and it always inevitably results in a small lump forming in my throat. I remember my youngest son taking his first steps and as thrilled as I was at seeing the delight on his face, it also dawned on me that that moment had passed and it would never happen again. The same feeling arose while watching my eldest son on his first day of pre-school, realising that this was the first big step towards one day in the not so distant future, carving out his independence from his dad and I.
It’s bittersweet, and it’s often one of the toughest parts of parenting. Because the great irony in being a parent is from the moment they are born, your job is to ultimately guide them so you can let them go. That time will be a source of deep pride, of course, but I also know it will leave me a little heartbroken because while I’ll always be there, I know that their life is now theirs to lead.
That said, I realise that I am only at the beginning. My kids are only 4 and 2. While the days can sometimes be long and challenging, I know the road ahead for my children and I will still bring many joyful firsts. We have so many more milestones to look forward to, and that inevitably puts a smile on my face. There’s still the first day of school. Their first love. Their first job. Their first home. Knowing this helps to soothe me when it all feels like it’s happening too fast.
There’s still the first day of school. Their first love. Their first job. Their first home. Knowing this helps to soothe me when it all feels like it’s happening too fast.
But there are also firsts I’m not looking forward to, because if there’s one thing a parent never wants to go through, it’s seeing their child hurt. I’m dreading their first heartbreak. Their first big disappointment. The first time they realise that the world isn’t always a kind place. The first time they have to farewell someone they love. Because while I would do anything to shelter them from it all, I know I can’t. These moments will inevitably come and no matter how hard I try, they will have to go through it and I can only be there to provide endless hugs and a shoulder to cry on.
Knowing these last firsts are always around the corner, I’ve tried to teach myself to be in the moment more when I’m with my boys. To appreciate what’s in front of me right now — as exasperating or exhilarating as it may be on any given day. Because while it may be a day where they will do something new for the last time, I’m buoyed by the fact that at their ages, there’s always an unexpected first just around the corner.
The thing with last firsts is that it also shows how far you’ve come as a parent. Because while your children will have their last firsts, it also inevitably happens to you. Like feeling those first flutters of a baby kicking in your belly. Or staring at them in awe as a newborn, milk drunk and happy for the first time. While these milestones are huge for them, I’ve also come to appreciate just how significant they are in the parenting journey. I know for myself, it goes to show how I’ve gone from being a beginner, a little naïve and unprepared for just how hard it would be, to being a lot more confident in myself as a mother.
I know there will continue to be days that I wish would go quicker than the rest, and I know that there will be some days where I would do anything for time to stop so I can remember such a beautiful moment. It’s all part of being a parent. All I ask in the meantime is boys, please don’t grow up too quickly.
Tania Gomez is a freelance writer.