We marked yet another milestone last week when Mister Four started pre-school. He will be going two days a week, and next year he’s off to big school. He is also starting swimming lessons this week. In fact, there have been a lot of firsts lately. He has (finally) started dressing himself, which is no small feat. This is the child who has an adoring
sucker Mum and three doting older siblings, and has managed to avoid doing anything for himself. He is also working on the finer details of toileting, which took LOTS of convincing. When I told him over the summer holidays that he really needed to learn to wipe his butt because I wouldn’t be at pre-school to do it for him, he casually reassured me that he didn’t plan on using the toilet at school, he could wait til he got home thank you very much.
But it has dawned on me that while we all celebrate the “firsts”, we don’t seem to notice the “lasts”.
When my older three children were growing up a wise woman said to me, “don’t wish the days away, before you know it they will be gone”. I managed to keep that in mind, and really enjoyed watching them grow up. I always knew that child number four was waiting to be welcomed, so I never paused to think that it was the last time a baby crawled, or the last time one of them started school. I also didn’t hesitate to have a whinge about the less comfortable parts of being pregnant, but since I had three kids in four years that’s probably fair enough.
But with Mister Four it’s all been so different. From the moment I learned I was pregnant it felt special. I knew in my heart that it would be the very last time. It was the first time I felt that tinge of sadness at the thought of never again feeling a twenty-four week baby in my belly doing summersaults. I knew how incredibly fortunate I was to have conceived easily four times, and I swore to myself that come what may I wouldn’t complain. I honestly savoured all of it. The last month of the pregnancy passed in a haze, ripe with anticipation, excited to meet this new person. When labour day rolled around I welcomed the contractions, really focused on them, knowing there would be no more after this. And the first six weeks of his life I swear I did nothing but just look at him. All day. Because by now I knew that all of his first milestones would soon become the last ones I would ever see as a mother.
I don’t remember the last day his eyes were blue before they changed to green, and I don’t even remember exactly when all his teeth came through. I wasn’t so keen to record everything this time, instead I just enjoyed him. I do know the exact day he last crawled though, because he started walking on Christmas Eve, and having waited until fourteen months, he was finally up on his feet, and off and away.
I look at him now as he heads off to pre-school. He goes to a beautiful centre run by really lovely, and really loving, women. He has new friends, he already has a crush on a certain little girl, and he looks just a little bit annoyed when he sees me arrive to collect him. He’s busy growing into a big boy these days. Somewhere in the last year or so he stopped being my baby, and I missed it. I’m not in such a hurry though. I don’t really think about him in primary school, high school, or as an adult. It will all come way too soon, and that’s okay, but I don’t eagerly await it. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I even thought about how old I will be when he starts school next year.
From being the woman who swore the only time to have children was in your twenties, I now know that the mother I am as I approach forty is a mother who makes time to stop, breathe, and soak it all up. There is a certain sadness that I am now more aware of the last milestones rather than the firsts, but if it makes me more present and in the moment, that’s probably a good thing. I will undoubtedly be one of, if not the, oldest mother on his first day of kindergarten next year. But I also bet that Mister Four will probably be the only kid with two brothers at university. And it’s all good.
I’ve realised that while the “firsts” are exciting for all parents, I feel like at the same time I’m saying goodbye to something. Saying farewell to being the mother of small children. Which I have LOVED. It has felt like that’s what I was put on this planet to do. I thrive on those tight spindly-armed hugs and that small hand searching for mine.
But when I see Mister Four so eager to be “big”, I realise that what I am really here for is just to safely guide them along so that one day they can fly. So they can experience, learn, see, feel, and taste life for themselves.
And that’s a first I can’t wait to see.