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“My week is going well; I’m about to have my last lecture of my undergrad!”

When I opened this text from my No. 1 last week I was immediately hit with a jumble of emotions: Happiness that he used proper grammar in a text message. Optimism for the bright future he is building. Pride that in his 23 years he has already overcome challenges many people twice his age haven’t begun to face. Relief that his time on the parent payroll may finally be coming to an end. (insert from my editor: Don’t kid yourself.) And, because it’s my nature, worry about what comes next.

Mostly, it got me thinking about “lasts” and how underrated they are as rites of passage.

As my three children have been making their way through their life stages I have been racing alongside them – anticipating and celebrating their firsts. There were the early and predictable first words, teeth, steps and school days. Then along came first sleepovers, sporting awards, crushes and post-secondary acceptances. I noted these and hundreds of other small and large firsts as markers of their growing competence and independence.

All the while so many lasts have been quietly slipping away, unnoticed.

When did one of my children last instinctively reach for my hand before crossing the street? How about the last snuggly bedtime story with a book we had read together hundreds of times? I can’t remember the last time my kiss was enough to heal a scrape or bump.

With my youngest in Grade 11 and on the cusp of getting his driver’s license, these reflections are even making me lament the fact that my last stint as a carpool chauffeur is just around the corner.

It appears that as my children are finally achieving the independence I longed for when they were toddlers, I’m beginning to appreciate those annoying older ladies. You know the ones. They smile and watch knowingly from the sidelines as you enter into a battle of wills with a fussy child at the park or the supermarket. As you grow ever more exasperated, they calmly heap on their incomprehensible advice to, “enjoy this stage, because it goes by so fast.”

The last lecture of an undergraduate degree may not seem like something to honour, but when I combine it with all the lasts I missed in my hurry to raise up my kids, it seems worthy of some kind of tribute.

So to you, my No. 1: thank you for sharing this significant last with me and allowing me to mark it with a sea of emotion and melancholy that you may not understand until, god willing, you are a wizened old parent like me.

While the marvelous firsts are an important part of parenting, it’s the lasts that help you appreciate how precious and fleeting the journey is.

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