The First And The Last

The First And The Last

Young Mother and Daughter Enjoying a Personal Moment

By Alice Jones Webb

My first child has a thick baby book. I started keeping it as soon as I discovered I was pregnant. My odd food cravings, the first stirrings of movement, and the onset of labor are all recorded in neat printed letters on pastel pages. I was so enamored by my first child, even before I had met him, that I wanted to record every detail of his existence. I didn’t want to chance forgetting anything.

After his birth, I continued to write down every one of his “firsts.” I was meticulous in recording each event. Dates, day of the week, even the time of day are all printed cleanly and evenly in the pages of his baby book. I was so afraid of the details of him slipping away as he grew. Perhaps I was afraid that he was too good to be true, that if I didn’t get every single part of him down, he would slip through my fingers.

The first time he said, “Mama” is one of my favorites. I cried fat tears. I remember exactly what he was wearing when he took his first tottering steps. The first time he laughed, the first time he used a spoon to feed himself (and the patiently waiting family dog), used the potty, rode a bicycle, drove a car, they are all chiseled in deep grooves across my memory.

He was my first child and so many of his firsts were firsts for me, too. As he was experiencing newness in his world, I was experiencing it in mine.

I shouldn’t have worried about forgetting. I haven’t needed the pastel pages of that baby book at all. It sits on a shelf collecting a layer of fine dust. Even though my first child has slipped away from me, leaving home and pursuing his own adult dreams, my memories are still incredibly clear and vivid. Each of his “firsts” are burned into my memory, because each of his defining moments also defined me as a mother. They are part of me. They are who I am.

My youngest child has had a very different experience. There is no baby book, no pastel pages, no dates or times, no meticulous list of “firsts.” Caught up in the busyness and chaos of raising her and her siblings, I was more concerned with keeping the house standing and the children alive than printing her accomplishments in neat even script. Most days I didn’t even have a moment to brush my hair, let alone write anything down. Unlike her brother’s “firsts” which I recall with stunning accuracy, hers have slipped away from me, lost in the pit of oblivion that was folding laundry, tending house, and feeding babies.

I cannot remember them. Not a single one. Not her first smile, nor her first words, nor her first steps. No matter how many times or how hard I try to conjure up the images of her “firsts” from the caverns of my memory, I come up empty every single time.

It’s not her fault. It is mine. I had already been through the tiny little miracles of a child’s “firsts” three times over. She is the youngest of four, her “firsts” didn’t dazzle me the way her older brother’s had. Instead, they seemed more normal, more expected. I didn’t pause to savor them. At the time, it seemed like so big an effort to step over the unfolded laundry, to walk across the room, sidestepping the toys as I went, to record her accomplishments. My hands were too full of her and her siblings to even consider holding a pen, let alone print anything cleanly and evenly. I will admit that I am rather ashamed of my negligence.

So the memories of her “firsts” have been lost in the swirl of time that streams behind me. I’ll never be able to grasp them again. I can’t remember them and there is no dusty baby book to remind me, either. But there are other details of her that I remember with painful clarity. I remember her “lasts.”

For the same reasons I remember her brother’s “firsts” so intensely, I have her “lasts” cut with the same deep grooves through my memory. His firsts and her lasts, the whole of my experience of motherhood is sandwiched between them. They are the bookends. He was my first and so many of his firsts were my firsts. She is my last child. Her lasts will be my lasts, strung out like a long farewell.

I remember the last time she nursed at my breast. The last time she slept in my bed. The last time she sat on my lap. The last time she called for me in the middle of the night.

Even now, every time she runs to me, hairbrush in hand after a failed attempt at a self-implemented ponytail, I wonder “Will this be the last time I brush her hair?” And it crushes my heart to think that it might. So I take my time, my fingers lingering on the soft strands of her hair. It might be the last time. I want to remember it. Every last bit.

Alice Jones Webb lives with her husband and four children in small town North Carolina. Her work can be found on her blog, Different Than Average ( where she writes about parenting outside of mainstream culture, as well as sites such as Scary Mommy, The Mind Unleashed, and Elephant Journal among others.

The First Sleepover

The First Sleepover

By Kris Woll

sleepoeverMy 6-year-old son is sleeping at another house tonight.  A friend’s house, just down the street and over a few blocks. Today was the last day of school and tonight’s sleepover was part of the celebration.

This is a first for my son, and a first for me.  He’s never spent the night on a friend’s bedroom floor.  Just nine months ago, when the school year was beginning, he wouldn’t fall off to sleep at night without his lamp lit and without his father snuggled beside him.  Until two years ago, I held on to him at night—but with the arrival of his sister, that changed.  I moved across the hall, nursing and rocking and holding her, doing all the pre-bedtime things books and experts tell you not to, just as I’d done with my son before, creating yet another child who could not fall asleep alone.

My daughter early on proved rather independent, proved to be a better sleeper than her big brother.  Maybe I was more confident, more comfortable; maybe we were busier and she was far more tired than he had been at that stage. While she liked the pre-bedtime snuggles, she fell asleep quickly and did not need me to hang around.  I, on the other hand, wanted her close, had a hard time falling asleep without her little breaths on my neck, without her soft cheeks brushing against mine.

It was around Valentine’s Day that my son started to fall asleep on his own.  When he first told Daddy not to bother coming in to read.  Instead, my big kid paged through his own books all on his own in his big boy bed, turned out his own light, and snuggled under his big blue-and-white striped comforter—purchased when he insisted on replacing the truck comforter—all on his own.  And he didn’t wake during the night to come into our bed, he didn’t even climb in come morning for a pre-breakfast hug.  He grabbed a book until he heard Daddy get up, or stealthy located the iPad.

He was sleep trained at last.

So Daddy and I started to fight over who would read to the little one.  I’ll do it!  No, me!

We are not sleep trained yet at all.

And then, today, my son finished first grade and he went off to sleep somewhere else.  We brought him to his friend’s house and he ate pizza and built forts and wrestled and made up stories.  As I went to leave him there with that friend and that pizza and that night ahead, I was certain he would change his mind and probably tear up, get a pouty lip, be sad and grab me—the way he had when he was that small, chubby toddler starting at a new daycare, and I was the mommy kissing him on his forehead and promising to come back soon.

I was prepared for him to say he wasn’t ready, wanted to come home, wanted to read stories with Daddy and come into our room during the night.

But he didn’t.  He was fine.  He wanted to go build a fort, go make up stories.

He ran off, back to playing, while I took my time at the door—and then I headed home to snuggle his little sister as I fell asleep in our quiet little house.

Kris Woll is a Minneapolis-based writer.  Read more of her work at

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