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Maneuvering the firsts and lasts

A robin claims its space, preparing for its springtime firsts. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

When my children entered each new school, they were greeted with numerous celebrations. They attended the last elementary school dance bookmarked with the first middle school dance. The first concert for one became the last concert for another. The first match was someone else’s senior rose ceremony. The first. The last.

By the time my son finished high school, he and I were tired of celebrating his lasts. I felt it was a well-conceived plan so parents wouldn’t be sad at graduation. We’d be so sick of celebrating our children; we’d eagerly see them leave the nest. The first. The last. I’ve asked my son what he remembers through his firsts and lasts through the years, and our memories rarely meet. He valued things that barely registered with me while I was on an emotional rollercoaster for a timeline he found ridiculous.

This year I’m making sure to ask my daughter what is essential to her. Listening is critical as I try to dissimilate what she views as tradition and vital. The two circumstances are not the same. There are certain firsts and lasts not available. I also place importance on things she doesn’t value. I think she must be missing out only to realize she is approaching her circumstances from a different place. It’s a balance to make sure I’m not exerting my feelings over her own. I’ve already graduated from school. I’ve had those firsts and lasts. Sometimes I need to step away and make sure I’m not trying to force an irrelevant tradition. Traditions change. It’s a matter of meeting my own emotions and not placing the added weight onto my child.

With younger children, it seems impossible to determine their wishes. It places the burden on the parents to document their own firsts and lasts. Most younger children understand things are different but will only feel lacking when told by their elders. It can feel daunting, but there are ways to acknowledge the positive experiences. Sometimes it can be as simple as asking for children to look for one daily happy occurrence. The answers always surprise me. When the circumstances don’t warrant praise, it’s best to be straightforward with an abysmal situation and conquer the next battle.

I’m not naive. I understand some circumstances can’t be overcome by simply building positive experiences. I know not every child’s firsts and lasts will correlate to those of my child. Listening is always crucial, and extracting my own emotions out of each situation is vital. I wish you the best, honoring the firsts and lasts.

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