Today was another first for Dotty and me. It was her First Day of First Grade.
We did the usual stuff...pick out a special outfit, lay everything out the night before, go to bed early, wake up early, take pictures in front of the house, the car, back in front of the house again, we took more pictures at school, in front of the school, in front of the "Welcome" sign, in front of other signs...real smiles, fake smiles, and silly faces were captured today!
Then she was so excited to be on her way to find her spot in line that I barely got a hug and kiss goodbye. But by planting myself directly in front of her line of vision and looking deep into those beautiful blue eyes I got a split second to say "Have a great day! I love you!" as I stole a quick kiss...and then she was off!
As Dotty grows up in life she is experiencing all these "firsts" and so am I. Today like so many other days I am reminded that these firsts are also our lasts. Neither of us will ever get another "First Day of First Grade" moment. Neither of us will get another first time to wait for class in the gym versus the library like she did as a Kindergartener. Neither of us will get those first day of first grade butterflies. Today was our last first for this moment.
You see when Dotty was born I had always planned on having at least two kids. I hate to admit this but in a way I had hoped to "survive and learn" with Dotty and then be able to enjoy everything with my second kid. But life has a funny way of showing us we are not in control. The day I realized that I was more than likely never going to have another child of my own was the day I realized that Dotty was no longer my "dress rehearsal". I don't mean that in a bad way I just meant that a part of me thought if I made mistakes with Dotty I could make it right with the next kid.
Thankfully as Maya Angelou would say "when you know better you do better". Now that I am definitely older and I hope a little bit wiser I know that even if I had another child I would screw up with that one too...just in new and undoubtedly head shaking "what was I thinking???" ways. Now I know that Dotty is not the dress rehearsal for me becoming a "perfect parent" because perfection doesn't exist...especially in parenthood. I now know that Dotty is a great teacher to me. She shows me my flaws and the areas in my life I want to improve. She makes me want to be a better person, woman, and mother. She is forgiving of my shortcomings and she is accepting of my flaws. She loves me even when I don't love myself...and she is the first and last person I think of each day.
I used to get sad thinking about how all the firsts are also all the lasts. I used to strive to make every moment perfect (I am a slow learner when it comes to the subject of perfection). However today as I was racing to pick Dotty up from school (and if you know me well...then you know I was late) I was berating myself for not being the mom who was the first one in line to pick up her kid. In fact I was the last one to pick up my kid.
Dotty didn't seem to mind too much though. After a short "Why were you so late? The teacher almost put me on the bus." I told her "Today was a first and so I thought it should be a last in some way too." She just looked at me funny (not the first time I got this look) and went on to tell me all about her day. As she told me all the details her almost 7 year old memory could remember I couldn't help but realize that whether I was the first mom or the last mom what mattered was I was her mom. I was there...late I know...but I was there.
Having an only child does mean that the first first will also be the last first and the only first. However it doesn't matter if you have one kid or if you are the Dugger family with too many to count. What matters is in life we get to keep having these "firsts". Of course some of them we are going to screw up and some of them we are going to get right but the point is we get to keep having them. The truth is when Dotty graduates from high school or college she won't remember I was the last mom to pick her up from school in the first grade...and without looking at pictures she won't remember what she wore the first day. What she will remember is how many times I was there. Was I there a lot or seldom...was I there with a smile or a frown...was I there cheering her on or with my face glued to my phone...was I there to hold her hand, give her a hug, tell her she is great, wipe away a tear, be the one standing up to cheer...was I there...that is all she will remember.
Life is not a dress rehearsal. We are going to make mistakes...being late to school today was not my first mistake nor will it be my last. Some mistakes will be worse than others but if I keep showing up...if I keep being there for Dotty for the firsts, the lasts, the only moments...then the mistakes won't matter.
If I get it right...great! If I make a mess...okay. If we have a Hallmark moment...that is awesome! If we have a "wow that was awful" moment...then we will do better next time!
The fact is Dotty is my first kid...more than likely she is my last and only child. Does it make me treasure things a bit more than a mom with multiple kids...maybe but I doubt it. I know moms with three and four children that cherish each of these moments too and make them all just as great and special as if they had only one child to dote on and concern themselves with. No matter how many children you have in that moment with that particular child it is always your first, last, and only moment. There is no rewind. There are no retakes. This is life. This is the life we give to each of our kids. We all make the most of each moment.
Today was my first, last, and only time to experience the First Day of First Grade with Dotty. Just like it was for her. I enjoyed today in many ways and I only shed a tear or two that my baby girl is growing up. The bad news is today is gone. I don't get it back. But the good news is (God willing) I have so many more days like today to look forward to with Dotty.
I am definitely looking forward to all the firsts, lasts, and only moments to come.