Firsts and Lasts

Toddler In Striped Overalls Following Behind Two Older Children On A Dock

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As my youngest daughter’s birthday approached, her usual excitement and enthusiasm suddenly were replaced with an uncharacteristic negativity and dread.  Like me, she wears her heart on her sleeve, so, I can always tell when dark emotions cloud her sunny disposition.  Unlike me, she has an emotional awareness and maturity that I lacked at her tender age and, sometimes, still do.  So, when she plopped down in the chair near me one evening, I immediately sensed that something was amiss with her.

At first, she dismissed my questions of concern, but soon, her resolve weakened.  Her eyes brimmed with tears, and her bottom lip quivered.  Then, she shared the unseen thoughts and feelings that were responsible for her glum outward appearance.  Everything I do will never be the first.  I always will be last.

The person who owned the firsts alluded to by my daughter is her older sister, my oldest daughter.  From the moment she was born, she has looked up to her sister, even though she is now taller than her big sister.  They are separated in age by only 20 months, and they are joined by a sisterly bond that melts my heart and makes me proud as a parent.  So, my youngest child’s laments caught me a bit off-guard.

As we continued our conversation, she offered up further explanations.  She articulated her feelings that since her older sister will be the first one to achieve milestones, such as getting her driver’s license, graduating from high school, going to college, and doing everything else that she, too, aspires to do.  In my younger daughter’s eyes, her accomplishments will be overlooked or seen as less than, simply because she will not be the first one to achieve them.

As the youngest child in my own family, I empathized with my youngest daughter.  I have vivid memories of being too little or too  young to do what my older sisters were able to do already.  There were times when following in their footsteps felt more like I was being trampled under foot.  It took some fancy footwork, at times, but I learned to blaze my own trail and create a path all my own.

Just like I couldn’t do anything to bridge the age gap between my sisters and me, I couldn’t do anything to change the fact that my oldest daughter would be the first one to cross some of life’s finish lines.  I did the only thing that I could do.  I told her the truth.  I told her that yes, her sister would continue to be the first one to achieve certain things, and yes, I would be proud of her.  That was the truth, or, at least, it was part of the truth.

The rest of the truth was this.  While my daughter may be the second one to reach some of life’s milestones, those milestones will still be firsts for her and for me as her mother.  They will be no less special than her sister achieving her own milestones, and I will be just as thrilled for her as I have been for her sister.  She is not following in her sister’s footsteps.  She is taking steps of her own and leaving her own footprints.

I also explained to her that she has the distinction of being the one who will give me my lasts.  She will be my last child to get her driver’s license, graduate from high school, go to college, and do most everything else.  There is something special about being the first, but there also is something to be said for being the last.  As the mother of both an oldest child and a youngest child, I take equal pleasure in all of their respective firsts, lasts, and everything in between.  Hopefully, my youngest daughter will, too.

That’s another story . . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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