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When their firsts are your lasts

I wrote this as my youngest, Leo, started school in 2021. At the same time, I was, and still am, encountering the firsts of things with my eldest, Ella.

Firsts and lasts, beginings and ends. Parenting is full of them, isn't it?

When you start a family, you prepare yourself for all your child's firsts. Their first smile, their first tooth, their first steps, their first 'poonami' even and, of course, their first day at school.

While it is sad when your first born starts school, if you have another child you know that you will get to do it all over again, you still have those early years and you do not allow yourself to wallow in the sadness.

You almost wish the time away with your first born, but with your last, you really wish time would slow down.

While their first's are still exciting, you are not in such a hurry when they reach them, and there is a realisation that their firsts, are your lasts. The feeling that this brings is something that you are not prepared for, it is the beginning of a grieving process, where you are saying goodbye to the first chapter of your new life as a parent. It is the last first chapter that you will have.

The moment your last baby outgrows their Moses basket, is the beginning of the end, and the first overwhelming feeling of sadness hits. Then it escalates as you put away the baby toys and tiny outfits for someone else’s baby, and not another of your own. Nostalgia creeps in and, for a very brief moment, you allow yourself to wonder what it would be like to have another, before accepting that the baby days are over, and your focus moves on to the toddler years that have suddenly arrived with a vengeance.

The Toddler Years are not for the faint hearted, they are some of the hardest years, however, with your last born, more than ever, you are not ready for them to be a toddler, and you are certainly not ready for them be a pre-schooler.

You become over emotional at saying goodbye to the bottles, at them starting nursery, and while you are pleased that they are out of nappies, you find yourself crying when you come across one at the bottom of the discarded nappy bag.

Then, before you know it, it is here. You are applying for your last borns school placement. The last part of the grieving process starts, and it feels bittersweet.

You set about helping your child get ready for school. You encourage them to be independent, to dress themselves, to feed themselves, you pack away the sippy cups, plastic plates and bowls and you encourage them to start thinking for themselves. All the while wishing that they were not growing up, even though you know that you have to allow them to.

When the last first day of school arrives, the grief takes hold. It really is the end of an era. Life will never be the same again, and as you begin the next chapter, you feel simultaneously proud and sad. The apron string has unravelled a little more, you have to relinquish some of your control, and you find it hard to embrace this new change. The feeling of loss is great, but you know that this is not the last first that you will have to endure.

As you go through your parenting journey, you will find that every first your last born has, will always be your last, and that starting school is just the beginning.

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