Like most parents, I recorded every first of my children’s early years. There are pictures of first trips to Grandma’s, first steps, first solid food, even taking their first poop in the toilet. A post by Emily at The Waiting, reminded me how easy it is for the lasts to slip by unnoticed.
Do you remember the last time you were picked up and cuddled? I have four children, and found myself searching the dark corners of my memory for any recollection of the last time I lifted each of them into my arms. There is none.
We acknowledge the achievements, the going-forwards, the milestones of where we are headed and not so much where we have been. Maybe it’s because we don’t appreciate the significance of what we leave behind until it’s gone. Or maybe it’s because we just never realize it’s the last time . . . until it is.
Firsts, like lasts, are not eloquent or refined. The last step we take will most likely be much like the first — feeble and clumsy. Each brings with it a demonstration of progress. But one is a beginning and one is an end. One is noted and one is forgotten.
Humans, unlike animals, carry the burden of understanding time. We romanticize a past we strain to remember. We grieve its loss. The future is hope and wonder, even amidst uncertainty and trepidation.
Between the first and the last is the present. It is the center. The now. We forget to stop and live in this moment. And this one. And this one. Each tick of the clock is another gone by. The present moment is as steadfast as time is fleeting. Always here, for better or for worse.
A moment in the present is not reliant on memory, nor hope, nor wonder, nor dreams. There is no uncertainty or vagueness. The instant you are in right now is as real as anything is ever going to be.
If we could know the last time we were picked up, or rode in a pedal car, or fit in the shopping cart seat, that it was our last, would we have enjoyed it more? Would we have whined less? Would we have grieved the loss?
Probably not. Children don’t perceive the elapsing of time. A baby lives in a constant state of “now,” his only concern if he is hungry, wet, or sleepy. Eventually, he will understand time by experiencing it — what is a minute, an hour, a year?
Maybe this is what allows children to move forward at the speed of light. If they knew all the wonderful things they leave behind — naps, strollers, wagons, wearing pajamas in the middle of the day and yes, being lifted high above someone’s head — maybe they would want to stay children forever. Maybe the lack of grief is what allows them to grow.
. . . And maybe our grief of the past is a gift we are given that allows us to relish the present. It permits us to cuddle their round little bodies one more minute, or stop and watch them as they nap, or slip into their world of imagination, or pick them up just once more before they are too heavy and we too weak . . .
Peace . . .