All of her firsts will be my last.
It’s a terrible thought.
My last first bottle. My last first smile. My last first steps and my last first words. And today, my last first birthday.
When a baby is born, she is little more than a squirmy, crying lump. At one-year-old, she is a little person. And in-between, you watch her grow every day but you never see it happen.
My girl looks like her brother, like her mom. Always has. Not like me, thankfully. The three of them share big round eyes and a wide grin. Their hair, brown, albeit each with their own unique shade. Also, more simply: they all have hair.
But as she’s grown, I’ve come to see a lot of me in her too. I see my hardheadedness in her determination to nonchalantly chew on charging cables. I see my fondness for holding and being held when she curls up on my chest and rests her head on my shoulder. I see my unexpected happiness brought about by Disney Channel TV shows when she stops what she’s doing to dance to the Girl Meets World opening credits. Despite watching her every day, I don’t remember seeing any of this develop. I just know that this is who my daughter is today.
Something I read on the internet that messed me up: there was a time when your parents put you down and never picked you up again. As a son I am okay with this. As a father, I can’t stop thinking about it. When will I put my baby down and never pick her up again?
This conjures another terrible thought: all of our lasts will be my last.
The last time I pick up my baby. The last time my baby falls asleep on my shoulder. The last time my baby instinctively goes to me to be consoled.
But the firsts and the lasts go on for a lifetime. There’s the first day of school and the the last graduation; first love and first heartbreak; the last love and the last heartbreak; the first and last grandchild. An infinite possibility of firsts and lasts that ensures my place in her ever-growing world.
It’s hard to think of these things when they’re little though. When they’re little, we don’t just see growth as they get older: we see loss. Kids have a way of reminding us of all those days in the past that are lost to us, gone forever. And so when they’re little, we treat birthdays as if they are goodbyes.
So happy first birthday to my last baby. Goodbye to the days you couldn’t hold up your head. Goodbye to the days you couldn’t eat solids. Goodbye to the days when we would put you down and you were stuck there until we picked you up because you hadn’t figured out the basics of mobility yet (indeed: goodbye to those glorious days).
Goodbye to your first year. My last first year.
Hello to all the other firsts and lasts that await us.