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The first year of many lasts

SemiNative

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Madi and Maxine on a first day of school. - LAURA EURICH
  • Laura Eurich
  • Madi and Maxine on a first day of school.
Parenting is marked by a series of firsts.

First tooth, first words, first steps, first day of school. All these fleeting moments captured with photos. And if you’re a diligent parent (unlike me), the photos are placed in baby books and later scrapbooks.

The firsts don’t stop with these early landmarks. There’s first day of middle school. First time behind the wheel. First love. First heartbreak. First job interview. First time they look at you and say, “You’re right, mom.” (Don’t get used to that one, it could be the first and last time you hear it.)

However, nothing prepared me for what I’m about to face: a year of lasts.

After 14 years of taking first-day-of-school photos, as Madison poses patiently on the front porch for this year’s photo, it marks our last first day of school. (Sure, she’s got a few more first days of school ahead of her as she goes to college, but it’s likely she will be out of state and I won’t be there at her dorm to snap a shot.)

What follows this first day is a series of lasts as my younger daughter embarks on her senior year at Coronado High School, and I face the prospect of an empty nest.

I went back to work just six short weeks after having Maxine, my first daughter. That first day back, a co-worker found me in the restroom as I prepared to pump breast milk. She looked at me with understanding in her eyes and gave me some powerful, unsolicited encouragement, “They never forget who their mommies are.”

That co-worker probably didn’t realize the power of her words, but fast forward 19 years, and she’s now a dear friend and one of my mommy mentors. Like me, she has two daughters, the younger of whom graduated in May. She just survived her last year of lasts, and her guidance remains as valuable to me today as it did almost two decades ago in a bathroom.

“Savor every one of the lasts,” says this friend — Joanna Bean, the former editor of The Gazette who is now a co-worker at UCCS. “From the first last to the last last. And don’t be shy about bullying your way into them!”

Bean told me about going to Abby’s last school registration day, when students get IDs and locker assignments and deal with an assortment of other tasks to get ready for the first day. Sure, her daughter could have handled it on her own, but she wanted to be there. Having had two daughters go through the school, Bean wanted to use the day to begin her yearlong farewell, and start the process of thanking the faculty and staff. (You see why I look up to this woman?)

She said her daughter was neutral about her being there that day, and might have even been secretly glad.

In theory, I know what to expect. I’ve witnessed seniors and their parents as they march through the process. The school calendar maps it all out. Madi’s last year will be marked by the predictable. The last homecoming dance. The last season of basketball. The last prom. The last golf season.

And then there will be some moments that are new to us, as they are reserved for seniors: capping ceremonies, the senior awards night, senior nights for her teams and, of course, graduation.

Any parent will tell you, they grow up so fast. The firsts still feel so fresh. Four years of high school feel more like four weeks. As I take a deep breath and buy stock in Kleenex for the school year ahead, I’m putting Joanna on speed dial; I suspect she’ll be doing the same as she navigates her first year of a daughterless home.

“You just don’t know what will happen in that last year,” Bean warns. “Don’t take any of it for granted.”

So, I’m sorry, Madi. I might be overbearing at times this next year. I will probably be over-involved. (Madi might say, “Yeah, what’s new?”) Someday, you also might be facing your youngest child’s year of lasts, and only then will you truly understand.

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