His Last Bottle

Baby bottle feedingThe first year of life is a constant stream of “firsts.”

We, as proud parents, anticipate the firsts. We look for them, and recognize their value.

I relished in my kids’ firsts; the first smile, first wave, first bite of food. Those moments are burned into my brain so deeply as symbolic representations of newness and potential.

Experiencing childhood firsts, however, comes with an often undesired promise. A promise that with every first, will come a last.

And, as all parents know, “lasts” are different.

Unlike childhood firsts, most childhood lasts go unnoticed and unrecognized. The last dress-up session, the last fingerpainting, the last request for a goodnight kiss; they silently slip.

It is nearly impossible to recognize those last events in the moment. They are noticed when we look back, and realize they aren’t happening anymore. Only then are they acknowledged.

If I knew that would be the last fingerpainting, I would have given in a place on honor on the fridge. If I knew that was the last time she dressed up in that dress; I would have taken a picture, framed it, and memorized the moment. If I would have known it was the last time I would see him, I would have said, “I love you.”

But unlike most lasts, there is one that a parent can actively prepare.

A last that be created at a specific time, when a child and parent are ready.

The last bottle.

My son was sipping from a cup quite well. Frankly, I was sick of washing the seemingly endless rotation of dirty bottles. But, I would be lying if told you preparing his last bottle did not made me pause. For me, the last bottle was a recognition, perhaps, of the end of phase. The end of the year.

I reflected on the awesomeness that is the first year of life, as I prepared his last bottle.

The amazing, dramatic, and unmatched metamorphosis from helpless infant to little person. My son had transformed from a small baby completely dependent on me for protection, warmth, and milk; to a determined, persistent toddler who pulls hair for attention and loves chili.

Amazing indeed.

My “mommy moment” quickly dissolved when, instead of the peaceful and solemn experience I was expecting, my son was distracted and agitated as he drank his last bottle that evening. He finished only a few of the ounces of milk the bottle contained and wanted out of my lap. So, I let him go. He immediately crawled to his chair, grabbed his cup of water, and went to play.

In a snap, my experience was redirected.

My son had changed my feelings toward the last bottle from an event of past remembering, to the promise of a new beginning. Maybe, the last bottle is just another first. The first indication of the coming of another year.

There is so much more.

I love the thought of more. I like the new adventures and the changes of the day. I love to watch kids grow up happy and healthy, including my own.

And as I watched him play, I began to wonder.

When will he walk, and run? What is his favorite story-time book? What is his favorite color? Why does he think that is funny? Who will be his best friend? Will he want a bike or a scooter?  Will he continue to eat dirt out of the garden? What sports team will he cheer for? What instrument will he play? Where will he go to college, will he? Who will he marry? How will he make a difference?

In final recognition of this first last, I lift the half-empty bottle to the sky in ceremonial salute. I pause to smile, to remember, and then gloriously relinquish it.

As for firsts and lasts; the more, the better.

What parenting “lasts” have you experienced, in an unexpected way?