The first years of our children’s lives are filled with, well, firsts. Joyous firsts. Photographic moments for scrapbooks, FaceBook brags, and mentions in the yearly Christmas letter.
First poop. First smile. First time sleeping through the night. First turn over. First crawl. First step. First tooth. First soccer game. First gymnastics class. First day of school.
Somehow after school starts, there are fewer firsts. Perhaps they dim. By middle school, our offspring’s firsts turn uglier. The first bullying. The first time to the principal’s office. The first F. The magic of childhood dissipates. “You’ll never guess what happened today, Mom” stomps in surrounded by a cloud of doom. Those happy tears of joy-inducing moments seem to have vanished by the preteen years.
Once teenagerhood hits, there are some more firsts that are fun – maybe even interesting – but it’s just not the same. The kid’s first cell phone, the first time driving with a permit, the first outing with friends to the movies where no parents go along, the first time driving after getting the license. These are all notable, but not precious. Trepidation overshadows the teenage firsts.
There are other firsts that parents are quite rightly not a part of. We all have those memories: first time holding hands, first swig of an illicit beer in a friend’s basement, first kiss, first date, first sneaking out and getting back home without getting caught. These are firsts that provide individuals with varying degrees of nostalgia and mortification, but these are not parent-child firsts.
I’m on my third child. That is to say: his two older brothers are through high school. One lives on his own: working, studying, and generally being a 20-something; the other is in college: happily ensconced in study, friends, and trips to New York City. If forced to classify myself as a mother yesterday, I would have said that I’m jaded. I’ve done a lot of it – the good things two or three times. And, I’d probably have added that although my third child has been the recipient of a wiser mother than the first was, he has been a bit short-changed when came to celebration of the joyous firsts.
My third son is born and bred in east-central Georgia until three months ago.
The night time snow lit up his eyes like a two-year old’s on Christmas Eve. He played; he made snow angels; he declared, “This is the most beautiful…” Words failed.
This morning, two inches of snow on the ground, he woke me up to announce that he was going outside to shovel the drive. I got up to take pictures and smile and laugh at his wonderment. Okay, okay, I’ll be real: upon seeing the neighbor snowblowing, he did complain, “Dude, we need one of those! Seriously, this shovel is so last century.”
Still, in these moments, the gunk of middle school has sloughed off, and I can see all of the beauty of all of his joyous firsts shine in his appreciation of this new, wonderful first.
Snow is fanciful for him. Something that only happened in the movies or in light dustings every eighth year in Augusta. For Midwesterners, it didn’t snow much last night, but he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t need to.
He didn’t realize that I was watching when the city snowplow came down the street. In that moment, this thirteen year-old boy who is too cool for anything was a one year-old taking his first step; he was a five year-old after the first day of kindergarten; he was a baby giggling at his first tickle. It wasn’t just seeing the plow in action, but it was also realizing that the plow pushed street snow onto your driveway. No matter, it was all great to him.
And for me, I am reminded that having moved to a completely new life I have been given a chance to have some joyous firsts with this third kid — and that’s a first I don’t want to waste.