Son #2 turned 19 today; Son #1 hit 21 last week. Hard to believe, since I'm barely 20 myself.
This particular year, my two sons' birthdays bring them each a milestone, a First and a Last. The older one can drink his first (legal) beer. The younger one has entered his last teenage year.
We tend to track our lives through a list of Firsts and Lasts. Once we become parents, however, we often stop marking our own and begin noting our children's.
The baby years bring a flurry of Firsts: first tooth, first word, first steps, first wailing trip to the ER.
These make way for the noteworthy moments of young childhood: first spin on a two-wheeler, first day of kindergarten, first dance recital or soccer game.
At some point, the momentum slows. As our children grow, the Firsts become not only more infrequent but also infused with some parental apprehension: the first evening alone without a sitter, the first date (which he will never acknowledge as such), the first moment behind the steering wheel, the first unchaperoned party.
And by the time our kids reach the end of high school, we realize we've stopped tracking the Firsts altogether and have started noting the Lasts.
As both of the young men I've raised head into their twenties, I look back on their years of milestones with a combination of joy, pride, disappointment and simple relief.
Yet I realize the cycle of moments-to-remember hasn't ended at all. It's simply started all over again.
I know I won't be there for every monumental moment of my sons' adult lives, but I look forward to taking pleasure in many: their first "real" job after college, their first dance with their new wife at their wedding reception, their first child. They'll learn then a bit more, themselves, about the significance of Firsts and Lasts.
And I hope they learn, early on, that "Lasts" are not to be lamented, but to be acknowledged for what they truly are: the transitions to new and rewarding "Firsts."