I live in front of an elementary school. The quiet of summer has passed and families are lining our streets to drop off and pick up their kids. Those first days, I will look out my window and watch moms hurriedly walk their backpack clad tots down our street, around the corner, to the front door of the school. Then she will rush back to her car, climb in, and with a quick swipe of the cheek pull away. A tear quickly pushed out of the way.
I never understood why moms cried a little on the first day of school, or really at any of the firsts. Why get choked up when a birthday rolls around or when your kid takes their first step? These are GOOD things, these are the things we are hoping our children do, right?
I didn’t get it … until my son came into my life three months ago. Earlier this week my friend was messaging me about planning her daughter’s first birthday. We shared se
veral “I can’t believe its” and crying-face emojis. And honestly, I did feel a little teary for her. In excitement for her daughter’s upcoming celebration and a little sad that the baby firsts were over for my dear friend.
I’m loving the baby firsts. I’m revelling in each day something new is happening for my son. My brother-in-law wistfully reminded me to enjoy of these moments when we visited family last week.
“Every day is going to be new for a while, and it is so great,” he said as he peered over at his oldest daughter. She starts junior high this year. He didn’t have a tear in his eye, but he did have a certain look.
I also became that mom just days before when we took my son to meet his 99-year-old great-grandmother. My husband was pushing the stroller. He quickly hopped on the elevator and before I knew it we were on her floor. As he rolled off into the hallway my heart jumped.
“Wait!” I said, “I didn’t grab a picture, that was his first time on an elevator.” My postpartum hormones giving me little control over the thoughts pulsing through my brain.
“Come on, we gotta go, he will have lots of elevator rides in his life,” my husband said with a little chuckle and no pause in rolling down the hallway.
He’s right, I thought, and tried to shake the feeling that another door had just opened. I mean it’s just an elevator ride for crying out loud.
But, as my son spread a gummy smile at his great-grandmother, and her knobby hands gently caressed his arm, it was hard not to think of the circle of life.
I hope he does ride on lots of elevators. And walk down many halls. And cross several fields. And play in a few oceans. And learn a lot of things. And have lots of adventures. I hope he has a million firsts, some redos and start overs, and several repeats – especially the good stuff. I want all of these things for him.
I also want him to be small. I want to smell the top of his head and drown in that baby-fresh scent. I just want to hold him.
And that’s it – we cry at firsts because life is moving fast. We cry at firsts because we are brimming with pride, because we are sad to be needed less, because we knew this day would come and pass. We cry at firsts because birthing children rocked our emotional core and a piece of our heart is out there in the world, separate from us. We cry at firsts because the things we want for our children are coming true. They are becoming their own people, just like we wanted. We cry at firsts because they are one step further away from us, from those moments when their bodies dwelled in ours.
We cry at firsts because we are mothers and fathers. And that’s the way it goes. This is what I want my son to know – if you see a tear in the corner of my eye on your big day, it’s because I’m so happy for you. It’s because you are growing, again. And it’s because I would still like to hold you a little longer.