Last week my daughter smacked her hand hard against the edge of the pool as she was completing a length of backstroke. Her friend came and told me and I went to her, she was cradling her hand, and had the kind of muffled sobs, that denote serious pain. I cuddled her (being careful of the hand) and I then dressed her. It occurred to me that it had been a very long time since I had rolled up socks so you can get them onto a child’s foot easier. It was a massively nostalgic moment, and I commented on it, to which my child made some sort of funny. Her hand was utterly fine except for a minor bruise that took a few days to come out, but it reminded me just how many ‘lasts’ there are for the parent during childhood.
My friend Maggie once observed that the last time that your child holds your hand, you won’t know it’s the last time. That level of need, that level of looking to you for safety, warmth and reassurance is never so physically pronounced as it is during childhood. There will come a time where the nightmares no longer wake your child in the night, when they no longer need help tying a shoe or reaching to a shelf for the colouring pencils. They have learnt all these skills for themselves.
It can be easy to view these as a loss, and sometimes, during waves of nostalgia, I feel that keenly. But I also accept that as much as these are ‘lasts’ for me, they are ‘firsts’ for her. I have taught her some of these skills, others she has worked out for herself, she has built confidence in what she can do and resilience and determination to see these things through. And my idle memories irrespective, I am immensely proud of and interested in the young person that I have the privilege to raise.
I guess there are many new ‘firsts’ that I will get to experience in the coming teenage years and am sure these will be a whole new learning curve for us both. Possibly in quite interesting ways! For me, it is trying to appreciate the actuality of the present moment, without thinking too far behind or ahead.
Map Point. Where in my life am I fully living in the present?