Firsts and Lasts

I ran through the school hallways today, Hannah grasping to one hand and her best friend grasping to the other in an effort to make it to “Group Sing” before it ended.

Hannah has spoken often of Group Sing.  Not in much detail, but enough for me to know it was something she looks forward to and enjoys each week at school.  I knew it was one of the only times during the week that the little preschoolers join with the Upper School big kids for an activity. We had arrived late to school today, as had her best friend, so we risked missing Group Sing which is why we bolted around other students and got strange glares from the teachers who normally preach “No running” to the children. I suppose my height and my “Don’t Mess with Me” look of desperation gave me a free pass this morning.

I had been told this was the Last Group Sing.  The last for the year.  And for Hannah, who will be entering public school Kindergarten this fall, the last Ever.

We ran into the room stuffed with 50 or so students ranging from age 3-12 all sitting on the floor singing unfamiliar songs (to me) while one student stood with a pointer at the front of the room tapping a large screen with the lyrics written out for those who could read.  I didn’t realize Overhead Projectors were still used.  It was refreshing to see they are.

Hannah and C found their classmates and joined right in with the other kids singing with delight.  I stood back.  Listening.  Watching.

They all knew the words.  They all had memorized the hand and arm motions that went with the lyrics. And when gestures weren’t required, they had their arms around each others shoulders and they rocked back and forth to the tune.  It reminded me of my camp days. Hannah glanced back at me over her arm resting on her friend’s shoulder and smiled.  Happy.  Comfortable. I smiled back. Tears welling in my eyes from the comfort I too felt with this Place she has been attending since infancy.

Her Last Group Sing. My First Group Sing.

Firsts and Lasts.  I realized in this moment as I listened to the older kids harmonize with one another, and the younger kids struggle to remember the words, that we always take note of the Firsts.  First steps.  First food. First words. First haircut. First visit to the emergency room (oh, is that just me?). First time riding a bike.  But we don’t as often memorialize the Lasts.  And the lasts really are so much more emotional.  Because you don’t get to witness the event again.  It’s over. Milestone reached. Goal attained.  Time to move on.  Sometimes you don’t even KNOW it’s the last and then the First is upon you without you even appreciating the climactic ending.  Last ride with training wheels.  Last night in a crib.  Last time wearing Pull Ups. Last day crawling.  Last meal of baby food.  Last day having fun at the playground.

And yes, the Lasts usually bring along a new First right behind it and we so quickly forget about that Last as we move on.  But sometimes it’s good to sit and take it in.  Remember it. Appreciate it.

This was Hannah’s Last Group Sing.  The last one with these friends.  Feeling comfortable giggling and laughing with her arms hugging her buddies. The last between these walls.  Singing these familiar songs. Being proud to be the oldest of the preschool kids and honored to be the welcomed as the youngest of the larger school.  In a few months she’ll have her First music class at her new school.  She’ll learn her First new song. She’ll have her First performance in front of an audience on stage.  She’ll make First friends.  And we’ll all remember these firsts but know we have more ahead of us.  And that’s so reassuring.  That firsts bring on more memories ahead of us.  And I don’t feel so desperate to hang onto the firsts knowing it’s not the end.

But the lasts? Oy. In a months time she’ll have her Last day of school.  Her last day with these friends. She’ll have her last popsicle out on the playground on which she first learned to slide down a slide, pump her legs on a swing and climb across the monkey bars. She’ll take her last nap on the cot where she first learned to make her own bed and learned how good it feels to help others make theirs.

The Firsts bring on Lasts and the Lasts bring new Firsts. I want to hold onto and cherish them all.  I want to imprint them in my brain and help Hannah do the same.

At my first group sing today I read the lyrics to their last song called “We all Have it Inside of Us”.  I don’t recall the exact words but the message is still very clear to me.

We all have what it takes to be what we want to be. We just need to find it inside of us.

What perfect words for her to end her Last Group Sing.  And start her First days at her new school.  I hope she remembers these words.  I know I will.



Filed under childhood friends, firsts, hannah, hopes and dreams, kindergarten, Me, memories, parenting, preschool

22 responses to “Firsts and Lasts

  1. I’m blubbering a bit as I read this, because you are so right. And that’s why life just whizzes by, because we focus on the firsts so hard, we look forward to the next big thing, that we lose the magic of the last thing and what it meant. I tend to try think this way with my own kids, to remember that because of change something will be different, so to savour what it originally was (I know convoluted). My husband has always said that he is amazed by how I handle a goodbye. I treat each as if it’s the last. I think that part of me comes from having lost my mother so young. And so I’m very mindful of this, but you’ve done such an excellent job of articulating it here. Bravo, Becca!

  2. So true, Becca. I think this is why we are all so compelled to blog. Because what if this is the last time X happens? How will we remember how it felt and what it meant if we don’t have that last record?

    I know that I, personally, try not to focus so much on what’s ending. That’s partly because I worry I’ll get too wrapped up in remembering that I’ll miss out on enjoying. And maybe it won’t be the Last. Maybe some other thing is ending that I don’t realize yet because I’m focused so intently on the wrong things.

    It’s the dilemma we all face. I love how you’ve framed it so succinctly here.

  3. While the ‘firsts’ are usually moments of happiness, the ‘lasts’ are always emotional for me, always sad, always bittersweet. The ‘last’ time each of my children breastfed, the last time I uttered: “We need more formual!” the last time I changed my oldest son’s diaper before he was fully toilet trained. The last time he wore ‘that’ shirt, or spoke that word ‘that’ way… sigh. Very sad indeed. And now you have inspired me to write my very own blog post about this subject… thank you for such a great post!

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  5. I smiled and smiled reading this post. What a wonderful thing Hannah’s gotten to be a part of. I think we’d all be a bit better off if our days began with Group Sing. Thanks for sharing a wonderful story.

  6. If we all have it inside of us, then is there really any begin or end? I try not to think of things as an end, because, you never know, it might just happen again, and if it is a part of us then it never goes away. I never say goodbye, just see you again soon. Who really knows what the end is, or what it means, or if there is an end to anything. The title of my blog is living a neverending story for exactly that reason, so I was intriged by your topic.

  7. I sat on Kyle’s bed this morning…the last day of his junior year. I told him one more year and then I won’t be with you on your last morning of school.

    He said, “Hope not, Mom, that would be weird.” He was referring to me being on his bed in his dorm room.

    Firsts and lasts. I’m full of them right now. And I guess you are too. But you have so many firsts. enjoy them all.

    • I’m so glad Terry was here to read this. I just came here after reading her post about Kyle’s last day of his junior year and so her thoughts were very much in my mind while reading yours.

      With my boys, we’re still mostly in the “firsts” territory, but you make such a good point here about not always stopping to mark the “lasts.” Two lasts I especially remember because they were so definite were the last time I nursed Big Boy before weaning him and the last night we put him to bed before Tiny Baby was born. (I had a scheduled c-section so we knew exactly when he’d be arriving.) And, in retrospect, those lasts are much more powerful and poignant in my memory than most of the firsts.

      Really lovely post, Becca. Thank you for sharing it.

  8. Sigh, sob.
    Oh, these are the kinds of things that just make me bawl. Am anticipating that next week at the end of year ceremony for my kids … the first (and last) time that they will both be in the “morse building” (the very youngest kids) … alas!
    I am glad you were there, and marked it, and shared it with us!

  9. Firsts and lasts, best of times, worst of times, push and pull – without these paradoxes life would be rather monotonous, and sometimes we don’t even know where we are in the ebb and flow of things. We don’t know it’s the best time of our lives until we look back in hindsight and realize we’ve never been happier than that moment or like you said, we don’t even know it’s the last time we ever do something until the time passes, and it’s too late to memorialize, to capture the moment, to let it sink in so that you can savor every last bit of it.

    Firsts are easier to detect, anticipate, foresee and so we can prepare a celebration or know to recognize it from a distance. But lasts, they’re a little trickier. More arbitrary because sometimes you hope it isn’t the last time you do something (your last pregnancy, your last vacation as a family with your folks, etc.).

    I think I’m rambling, but I guess that’s what a great, though-provoking post does to me. In the end I think it’s a privilege to be able to witness our kids’ firsts and lasts as they discover their place in this world and that we get to explore our firsts and lasts right alongside them. Sometimes because of them.

  10. Such a beautiful moment for you both to share together. My youngest is just 6 and your post reminds me of just how many firsts and now lasts we’ve shared together. Bittersweet and beautiful all at the same time. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. As always, a beautiful post. You are one of those bloggers that I try to make sure that I read every post of yours- I suck and miss some, but I never want to. Because you put your heart out there and share things that I often feel, but can’t express as beautifully as you can.

    I cried at my 3 year-old’s last day with his preschool teacher this year. He threw his arms around her neck, gave her a big sloppy kiss, and said, “I love you, My Shell.” He never got that he was supposed to call her “Miss Michelle” and instead called her “My Shell”- and she didn’t have the heart to correct him. If it wouldn’t mess up my oldest’s kindergarten schedule, I would drive middle the hour to that preschool every day so that that wasn’t their last day together.

  12. A lovely post – last week I was in tears and wrote about being so sad as it was the last day of the first year for my daughter at pre-school. I just know when she graduates preschool in two years from now I will be a blubbering mess. Firsts are very important, but lasts are also very important to me too, milestones reached, bittersweet moments when we mourn another stage passing but look forward also to what lies ahead. Motherhood I am finding makes me emotional about every single little significant moment – but I would not if I had a choice return back to the person I was before.

  13. That song sounds so wonderfully perfect!! Firsts and lasts always get to me…
    Glad to read your post 🙂

  14. So beautifully written… and really, so true. The firsts will eventually become the lasts; the lasts bring on new firsts.

    Such is life. First babies, last babies…First days of school, last days of school. Cyclical, repetitive, yet, unique, special.

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

  15. I often think about the lasts with my 6 month old. She will be out last child and for that reason, her moving onto the next “first” makes me so sad. I was sad when she had her first bite of baby food. I got up in the night last night to feed her thinking she will soon be sleeping through the nigh and I’ll have had my last middle of the night feeding with her. I am cherishing every moment this time around rather than looking into the future for the next first. :o)

  16. So well said. Since I’ve started blogging I pay much more attention to the lasts, I love recording them. They are often more emotional and more powerful than the firsts, yet overlooked. Thank you for such a beautiful, though provoking post.

  17. Got a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach while reading this. I’m terrified of not recognizing “lasts.” I hate that part of life can end without some understanding that I’m experiencing a significant moment. But, sometimes we just cannot recognize lasts, because that’s the way life works and the way it’s supposed to be. I want to hold on to – and appreciate – every moment I possibly can, including the lasts. Thanks for a perfectly put post!

  18. Your life seems so happy, I also love to read it. Thank you for sharing your experience

  19. Stuck in the driveway with two sleeping kids in the car and this is one of the best things I could have read right now. I don’t want to rush it, but sometimes I just need them to grow up. And it’s okay that they do, I should just revel in those lasts a little longer before I welcome and celebrate the new firsts!

    I live your mind, chickee!

  20. ck

    You are such a beautiful write, Becca. I was taking in a “last” yesterday and had to excuse myself because I pretty much lost it (tear-wise) in public. Entertaining “lasts” can be dangerous!

  21. Liz

    Ben won’t be going into Kinder next year, as his birthday is Sept. 16 and he just misses it. He’ll be in vpk next year at his same prek. Aidan will start there (hopefully) in the fall with Big Bro.

    Your post made me cry. The idea of the lasts going unnoticed, but bringing on new firsts….I am sentimental lately as I watch these 2 little boys turning into kids…Ben certainly, as you know with Hannah…a kid. Aidan…a toddler who, in trying to keep up with Ben, is 2 going on 4.

    It is funny how I have so desperately wanted this stage to arrive, where for me it is easier, but it makes me wishy washy at every thought.

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