I’m an emotional wreck.
It started last week. The toddler group we’ve been attending since my daughter was a baby gave her a little laminated poem to say goodbye, as next year she’ll be at school instead of at home with me. When she asked me to read it to her, she looked at me for a moment, all serious.
‘That’s really kind of them,’ she said eventually. And then, with a slightly wobbly lip, ‘I’m going to miss toddler group.’
I mean, as if the poem itself wasn’t emotional enough for me (I mean, if you ever want to punch me in the emotional gonads, read me a poem about the ending of childhood and I’ll be on the floor) her reaction just tipped me over the edge.
‘Yes,’ I said, with a slightly hysterical edge to my voice, ‘that was lovely of them.’
There are just so many things that are ending.
Pre-school finishes this week, with a graduation ceremony that I fully expect to ruin my mascara, and saying goodbye to her key-worker, who has been excellent and lovely and perfect for my daughter. Suddenly, I find myself longing for the days when she was a toddler. How the days and weeks and years seemed to stretch out ahead of us, hours and hours of cuddles and books and adventures. And now this big step is coming. A big step into the world, and away from me.
She’s ready. I don’t know if I am.
Meanwhile, we were driving home from an evening out the other day, and I turned to my husband and said, ‘I think breastfeeding is coming to an end. I’m pretty sure one of these days will be the last feed.’ I’ve tried to give up multiple times over the past few months but never got very far, and yet it suddenly felt as clear and sure as if my body had just flashed a message into my brain to tell me. Sure enough, the next morning, my son tried to feed: nothing happened. Bye milk. Somehow the last feed happened, and I didn’t even know it was the last one.
That’s the thing. The lasts sometimes happen without us realising it. Last walk holding their hand. Last milk before bed. Last re-read of the same story we’ve read fifty thousand times. Parenting is full of lasts. And sometimes they are good lasts (like ‘last night pacing around the living room with a screaming baby for hours on end’. Or ‘last supermarket tantrum.’). Sometimes they are poignant.
Last day at preschool.
But with the lasts come the firsts. And it doesn’t take the pain away from the lasts, but it does sweeten them a little bit. The firsts are exciting. First day at school. First day at school with no crying at drop off. (Please let that one come quickly.) First wobbly tooth. First book. First evening settling down to read Harry Potter together. (Please let that one come quickly as well.) First evening watching old-school British comedy and laughing like idiots together. As a side note, is it wrong to pray for your child to really like A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Father Ted? I hope not.
The firsts are amazing. The firsts are thrilling. Watching your child do something new – something that was beyond them before – is almost like doing it yourself for the first time. Pride and wonder and excitement mixed in one. With that tiny little bit of bittersweet nostalgia mixed in with it.
Wonder, awe, immense love, and a little bit of pain. That’s parenting.
We’ll do the next ‘last’. (Tissues in hand.) And then we’ll get ready to rock the next ‘first’. Just like the legions of parents who came before us, and the legions that will come after.
Let’s do this.