When I started writing these columns, my daughter Celeste was just four months old. For the past 17 years, I’ve written about her first Christmas, first words, first steps. The first time she locked me in a closet.
Her first time at camp. First time on stage.
Her first time behind the wheel of a car.
I’ve learned that as parents, we spend so much time recognizing and celebrating our little one’s firsts and preparing for their nexts that for a long time, we’re nicely distracted from noticing all of their lasts. Like the last time they sneaked into our bed at night or the last time they wanted us to stay with them until they dozed off.
The last time they wanted us to read to them.
The last time they held our hand in public. Or in private.
The last time our titles were “Mommy” or “Daddy” before they morphed into the more adult-sounding “Mom” or “Dad.”
With Celeste’s high school graduation less than two weeks away, the lasts have become hard to ignore. They’ve started gathering at the sidelines, increasing in number, and then rushing me all at once.
So I have to keep reminding myself there will be some lasts I won’t mind.
The last time I’ll have to turn skinny leg jeans right-side out before tossing them in the wash.
The last time I’ll have to scrub solidified milk from a forgotten cereal bowl or scoop a nest of long, black hair from the drain.
The last time my makeup will go missing. Or my favorite flannel shirt. Or my car.
The last time I’ll have to fight her out of the bed in the morning for school.
Although I am going to miss watching her down a bowl of cereal while still completely and deeply asleep.
And I’m so going to miss celebrating snow days with her. And shopping for school clothes. And that first day of school.
I’m going to miss school projects and goofy assignments and her impassioned descriptions of classmates.
And I’m especially going to miss the days she wants to ride with me in the morning instead of taking her car.
I’ll miss her being a kid.
In a few months, she’s going to be leaving me. Maybe short term. Maybe not.
I’ve been fighting this panic of wanting to hold onto every moment with her, and this Mother’s Day has hit me especially hard since it could very well be my last with her under my roof.
I’ve heard one of the ironies of parenting is that if you’ve done your job right, your kids will leave you.
But, dagnabbit. I don’t want her to go.