Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Firsts and Lasts

Last week one of my favorite bloggers published a post that pondered how many "firsts" she had left.  Her daughter is a couple years younger than Jacob and her son is a couple months younger than Carter.  Her daughter had learned to ride a bike and she realized that the milestones for her daughter in particular had slowed down dramatically.  Clearly she still has many, many more to go, but there's no doubt that as your kids get older, the importance and frequency of the milestones decrease considerably.  I realized that probably around three and a half years ago when Carter was starting to hit milestones and I noticed that we hadn't had a real doozy for Jacob in a while.

Honestly, it's not true that kids don't have milestones as they get older, but when they're babies and can do seemingly nothing, every ability that's added to that seems significant.  But when they're older and can do more, each milestone is relatively small compared to their existing array of skills. In addition, a lot of those big kid milestones are a bit more gradual, like learning to read or even riding a bike, since the first part of the milestone is usually not as practically useful as the evolved version of it.  I mean, when they're a baby and take a few steps, that's significant on its own...but realistically, even that is much more exciting when they can actually walk distances.  But those first few steps seem huge because their world is still pretty small.  And yes, the first words read or the first few feet of unaided bike riding are great, but those don't take them very far in a big kid world.  The big kid milestones really come into their own as your kid gains true independence doing them.  It's much more exciting seeing them read a whole book or ride alone to a friend's house.  It's a double standard, I suppose, but it's true.

Now that Carter is at an age where the milestones have slowed, the reality of stopping at two kids really does start to set in.  The biggest milestones are done.  We'll never have another crawler or walker or solid-food starter.  We'll never await another first word.  Heck, we're even pretty much done moving up rooms at daycare.  He's now in the room where he'll be until Kindergarten starts, unless numbers force them to move him up the summer before.  And yes, he's still learning his letters and big numbers and still figuring out how they all relate to the world, but it's not the same as those baby milestones.  I'm no less proud, but it's a longer process and the overall impact just seems smaller.

It probably doesn't help that I have friends having babies all over the place.  A couple moms I know from church are due in a few months, and another few friends (including one who's older than me!) have recently had babies.  And yes, I do find myself a tiny bit jealous of their tiny baby snuggles and sweet photo ops.  Even seeing my Facebook memories over the last two weeks of Carter's early days has been emotional.  I still remember those quiet maternity leave moments, whether it was overnight nursing sessions with milk-drunk smirks or peaceful afternoons on the couch watching him nap.  The reality is that we do not have the energy, money, time, patience, or space for a third child.  And yet I'm almost positive that years down the road one of my biggest regrets will be stopping at two.  It's simply not possible right now for so many reasons, and it breaks my heart just a little bit every time I think about it.  I don't doubt that the long-run rewards would be great (assuming everything went smoothly), but the short term effects seem too risky to attempt.  From my health to the baby's health to Jacob's obvious issues with siblinghood, the odds of problems seem high.  And once you add in practical things like another round of daycare, diapers, and expensive formula, or a car that won't fit three seats across, or a house that's crowded enough, none of it makes sense...aside from my heart wanting to be all in. Part of me wishes we could do it all over again and make the timing work, but deep down I'm guessing when push comes to shove, we probably wouldn't want to change much.  I don't think I would have wanted to start earlier (at least not by much) or squeeze them closer (aside from the extra year of fertility issues) perhaps this was just destined to be how we ended up.

One of these days I will pick up Carter in my arms or hold his hand for the last time, or get what turns out to be my final bedtime snuggle.  When it happens, I probably won't even know it.  We've already passed so many of those "lasts" with Jacob and it makes me sad.  Of course, we probably had an accelerated timeline because of how things went down around Carter's birth. I feel like a lot of things probably stopped in their tracks right around then.  And while I feel like I've done everything to savor these moments with Carter, I can't help but wish I had one more chance. But I also know we're in a new phase of life and that is okay, too.  Jacob's issues aside, I think we'd be in a pretty good place at this point, with one mostly independent kid and another that's well on his way.  In theory we have more freedom now that we don't have a baby to care for.  But Jacob's issues definitely complicate everything, and I think that's part of what makes me wish for more.  Maybe it's just having another chance to make up for what I messed up, or maybe it's wanting to have a distraction from the day-to-day stress, or wishing that another baby would reset things somehow--no matter how ridiculous that probably is.  I think when you have an undeniably tough situation in your life, you imagine every way possible to alter it.  And while this is definitely not the most logical way, for some reason it keeps cropping up in my mind. 

I'm so thankful for all of the firsts, and while I dread most of the lasts, I know they're a step forward to new opportunities and new phases in our lives.  I should embrace that, but sometimes it's okay to be just a little sad for what will never be.  Whether it's kid #3 or a peaceful household, some things just aren't in the matter how many times you shuffle the deck.

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