no spoon on head! and God saw that it was good.

Today was one of those bittersweet days of parenting, when the firsts and lasts all crash into each other at once, and you’re left wondering what happened to the newborn you brought home.

Perhaps I should have seen it coming when S successfully (and quietly?) managed to eat his entire breakfast without my once having to yell NO SPOON ON YOUR HEAD!  PUT THE SPOON IN YOUR BOWL, NOT IN YOUR HAIR! FOR THE ZILLIONTH TIME!

In the midst of the morning flurry, I suddenly looked up from loading the dishwasher and realized his bowl of cereal was nearly gone. After months of coaxing and cajoling that child to just please, for the love of God and all the saints in heaven, use the blasted spoon in a semi-correct manner, he did it all by himself. When I wasn’t looking. Of course. A first.

I should have known.

Already celebrating this small victory, I raced S off to his room to change him before our toddler class. When I suddenly realized it was not only the last class before the summer break, but it was also the last class we’d ever go to together, just the two of us.

Next fall I’ll be lugging that infant carrier around again, and the three-ring circus of our daily attempts to leave the house will become even more chaotic. Suddenly the time seemed to be slipping away in front of me. I wanted to hold on to our right-now life for just a moment more. A last.

My sentimental pause (and the disappearance of someone’s shoes) cost us precious time as the clock ticked down, so in no time I found myself racing us to the school building. When suddenly, from the back seat I heard S singing to himself, “ECFE, ECFE, ECFE…” I paused at the red light. “Well, yes, S,” I replied, shocked. “That’s exactly where we’re going.”

To ECFE  (Early Childhood Family Education). Which, hitherto, had always been referred to by S as “eee-eee” or finally “E-C-F” – but never the full acronym. Of course he would figure it out on the last day of class. A first and a last.

Nostalgia must have been in the air this morning, because other moms made similar remarks as we watched our kids run and play. “Can you believe how much they’ve grown and learned in just a year?” one said, wistfully. “At that one-year old class, they just sat like blobs!”

I watched S roam around the classroom, playing on his own and interacting with other kids. He didn’t cling to me or check back in to make sure I hadn’t disappeared.

And then he did something he’d never done before. He walked over and sat down at the art table, then looked up at me expectantly as if to say, “What are you waiting for?” Are you kidding me, child? Has your art-loving mama not been trying to coax you to paint for MONTHS in this class?

I laughed to myself, pulled the smock over his head, and handed him the paintbrush. He went to town, smashing the bristles all over the cream paper. Once the page was filled with a mess of blue strokes to make any abstract expressionist proud, he declared himself to be all done. A fridge-worthy painting to take home. A first.

This afternoon on a sunny May walk, I thought about firsts and lasts. Their poignancy is all around me these days, as we look ahead to the baby’s arrival.

All the firsts will start again. And yet there are lasts that always brush up right behind them. The last day we’ll have as a family of three. The last time I’ll kiss just one child goodnight. The last time I’ll feel this small one kick and dance inside.

My mothering spirit wondered what God thinks about firsts and lasts. God is at once ancient and ever-new. God makes all things new. God watches our beginnings and our endings.

Much like a parent, God witnesses all the firsts and the lasts. Perhaps the difference is that God sees their long arc as Good, holds all the joys and sorrows together in one loving embrace of what it means for us to be human.

We are the ones who struggle to change, to let go, to move on, to accept the new. Even when we know, deep down, that it must be good.

12 thoughts on “no spoon on head! and God saw that it was good.

  1. This is a beautiful post. I only have one child, and you have given me a new perspective into these firsts and lasts, which I myself often obsess over and get very emotional about. I am particularly mindful of my sons’s lasts. Last Story Hour with Mommy before transitioning to On My Own story hour. Last Kindermusik class (since he’ll be starting preschool in the fall and will have music as part of the curriculum, but Mommy won’t be a part of that. The list goes on and on. But since I only have one child, I never thought of it in terms of being the last time to have one-on-one time with him. Much as I would love to have another child, reading your post has made me realize that these types of experiences would be bittersweet.

  2. Thank you for this post. I experienced a ‘first and last’ moment recently. My mother passed away on May 14th and I was there for her last breath. It was the first time that I had ever been with a dying person. And in the days since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s presence with me in my new roles, as a mourning daughter, a new parent (relatively speaking — my son is 14 months old), and something in your post spoke to me about the tensions that I feel now. I want to grieve and curl up in a ball, but my son wants to explore and move fast. I want to cry, but my son wants to laugh. I want to protect myself from more vulnerability, but my son wants to get in the mix of things. Amazingly, God holds these tensions together not only for me (and my family), but for all of us. Every one of us. And that’s what makes God ‘Emmanuel’ for me.

    1. Carrie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad that your mother was able to meet your son, but so sorry for what you’re going through right now. I hope that your son will be a great comfort to you.

    2. Thank you so much for sharing this, Carrie. What a powerful experience it is to sit with a dying person, especially when so much of your time as a new parent is spent full of life, in all its energies. I remember reading an essay in Parents magazine about a woman who lost her husband and was amazed to find in the days immediately following his death that life did not grind to a halt: her sons still work up the next morning, jumping on the bed and asking for breakfast. Perhaps it is part gift that life is full of these demands that keep us living, but it’s also so hard, as you say, to function normally when you want to curl up in a ball and grieve. How amazing that God holds all of this together for us, as you point out. I take comfort in the fact that since Christ was fully human, he understood all of this complicated mess that it is to live in this world with its mix of life and death. I will keep you and your family in my prayers – peace to you and all who loved your mother.

      1. Thank you, Laura and Claire, for your thoughtful responses.

        PS — I posted this link to my FB page (Carrie Fling Nantais) because I know so many others who would benefit from seeing this, too.

  3. Thanks, Claire. I often wonder if I’m the only one who gets so sentimental about these “lasts” sometimes, so I’m glad to know I’m not alone! I even get nostalgic about favorite outfits that he outgrows or once-loved toys that I realize he hasn’t touched in a month. I often feel pulled between celebrating the firsts and looking longingly back on the lasts.
    Your comment also made me realize that no matter the size or shape of our families, we all feel these tugs. I can see how it must feel even more intense with one child. And then I also think of parents of big families who realize that their last child really is their last – and what has been the dynamic of their life for so long is finally changing for good. Always bittersweet, isn’t it?

    1. Oh yes, when he outgrows an outfit it gets me every time! I do think these things can be more intense when there’s only one child involved, because I have more time to obsess over the changes. But I also can see how it would be such a huge lifestyle change for a mother of a large family, when her youngest grows up. Yes, change is definitely always bittersweet.

  4. Oh, LKF, you brought tears to my eyes with this one. Absolutely beautiful.

    Thank you.

    As one who feels she is straddling an already and not yet (albeit not in the parenting way) I find it comforting to ponder what God is thinking of my firsts and lasts.

  5. Thank you for your post. I just had my 2nd a month ago and can relate to “grieving” those lasts of just being a family of 3. But the good news is – it’s better than I thought. There are a lot of firsts of seeing the oldest become a big brother. I miss just the me and him time though. Enjoy the time 🙂
    Also, this is random but I recently discovered this Moms’ Guide (http://www.1dental.com/moms-guide/). I wasn’t all that great at caring for my eldest’s teeth. But this site has great tips for starting this even in infancy. Wanted to pass it along in case you are like me 🙂

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