The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Firsts and Lasts

My lovely wife's favourite weekend read is the Guardian Saturday edition. She particularly enjoys the Family section. They recently featured an excellent article by Jonathan Sale called "The final moments".

The strapline read:

We are all aware of family firsts - baby's first steps, first tooth, first time riding a bike. But what about the lasts?

It is a really thought provoking article. My youngest (the lovely E) has just finished her final year at infants school - our connection with the school which she and her 2 siblings attended has finally been severed. So we are very aware of "lasts" at the moment - last school plays, last summer fairs etc.

However, the article talks particularly poignantly about the "lasts" that slip by unnoticed.

I was especially touched by this:

You are always aware of a "first" when it happens. There are embarrassing baby-books with blank spaces parents can fill in, labelled "My First Tooth" or perhaps "My First Projectile Vomit". You know when a child produces its first painting, or splodge. You keep the artwork in case Tate Modern wants it for a major retrospective in later years.

A "last", however, can come and go without registering on the radar. I have never come across a "Book of Lasts" with sections to be filled in on final footy knock-about or ultimate nappy. There is no record of the last time I yelled: "For the last time, will you turn that television off!" Nor is there any record of the last time, perhaps years before, when anybody did obey that particular command.
On the evening when I read the last bedtime story to the youngest child, I was not aware that this was anything more than another instalment of a Swallows and Amazons novel.
"I think I'd like to read to myself from now on," she said politely when I appeared after bathtime the following day, Arthur Ransome in hand. And that was it. She had closed another door and, indeed, book. If I'd realised in advance how significant the previous evening was going to be, I'd have hired a brass band and got Michael Morpurgo in to do the reading, with a film crew to record it for the family archives

Reading to my kids has always been really important to me. When the Dubmeister was a baby I used to read at least 3 books every night to him - and each one at least twice. Rod Campbell was our favourite author. "Dear Zoo" is a classic of post modern Britain (arguably).

I still read every night to the girls - but the Dubmeister is an avid book consuming reader and he's 13 - so I don't read to him much, if at all, any more. Have I had my last "reading to Dubmeister" session? - has that phase passed into history? If so, then that is a great sadness.

But I guess that's what being a Dad and a parent is all about - it's not just the firsts, it's the last times too and it's making both firsts and lasts count.

Speak soon.
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