04/09/2014 08:56 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Lasts I'll Miss Most as a Father

Our youngest daughter just turned 2, and with that milestone comes the inevitable question of whether or not we've been doing as much for her as we did for her older sister.

The obvious and honest answer, for me, is no. For instance, for her birthday, we didn't have fancy invitations, we didn't have a scrapbook of pictures from her second year on Earth and we didn't have photographers ready to snap pictures every time she opened a present. That day she did wear a dress bought solely for her, but on any other day there's a great chance she's wearing something her sister wore first. Same goes for the toys she plays with, the blankets she sleeps in, the highchair she eats from and and on and on and on.

That's just the life of the second child, in our experience. We plain and simple aren't experiencing the firsts the same way we did with her sister. Sure, she takes her first steps, but I've seen my child take first steps before -- and sure, she's said her first word, but I've felt that joy before, too. It doesn't diminish the love I have for her; it's a simple fact of my human nature: I've been there and done that and I've already reached that emotional plateau.

But what I've come to realize over time is that there's no reason to feel bad about having experienced her many firsts and for not shedding tears as often as I did with my first child. Because she has a different advantage (with us having made the decision that two kids is the perfect number for us) in that she has sent my emotions spiraling with a number of lasts.

Lasts don't get talked about very often because, lo and behold, they're often even more powerful to experience than firsts -- and people don't want to face the fact that there are things their children do that they'll never again experience.

For example, when our oldest said "dada" for the first time, I was elated; I didn't think I could ever feel such an emotional high ever again. Then The Youngest eventually said those words for the first time, and I thought, "Well that was great, she's talking and that's awesome," but then quickly thereafter thought, "I'll never hear another of my kids say 'dada' for the first time." When that thought hits you, you realize how important it is to cherish every moment of your children's lives.

With that in mind, I'm focusing on the lasts more than ever because as my daughters grow so quickly, I've found myself riding an emotional parenting roller coaster. They're sad moments at first, because your instinct is to think it's too bad that the little baby you once held in one arm is growing into a big kid. Then you realize that's what they're supposed to do, and you remember all the firsts they'll still experience.

I'm hovering in that reflective area for a bit. Here are a few of the lasts I'm going to miss the most:

  • The last time one of my girls discovers that those wiggly things at the end of their feet are toes that they control.
  • The last time one of them looks at a lemon and imagines how great it's going to taste, only to spend the next 30 seconds scrunching her face when she realizes how sour it is.
  • The last time my oldest girl meets her younger sister for the first time.
  • The last time my youngest asks her older sister what letter comes after K.
  • The last time my oldest answers "ellemenopee," as if L, M, N, O, P was one giant letter.
  • The last time I'll be awake at 3:30 in the morning with a child snuggled into the crook of my elbow because they don't yet have a sleep cycle.
  • The last time I'll wonder if my daughters have learned to smile or if it's just gas.
  • The last time my daughters show me the first-ever picture they've colored on their own.
  • The last time they ask me what that white stuff falling from the sky is.
  • The last time my daughters spend five minutes crawling across the floor for the first time and then look at me with a big smile.
  • The last time my daughter says "'licious" instead of delicious.
  • The last time my youngest daughter gets to wear red "shoe polish" on her toes for the first time.
  • And more and more and more and more.

I love that little girl, and I'm so happy I've been able to experience these lasts with her, even if just thinking about them makes me cry. We all have our own lasts that we're able to pull back from the recesses of our memory whenever we want. Maybe yours are different, maybe they're similar, but no matter what they are, they make you want to hug your child.

Just writing this list, I realize there are so many firsts left and so many things I hope will never end. I still get to hear "Daddy, I love you," and I still get to hear "Daddy, let's dance." I look forward to those times, but for just a little bit, I'm going to let myself cry over the things that have already passed and hold those memories a little tighter.

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