The little boy is graduating from fifth grade in three days.

He’s so done. He can’t wait to be out of elementary school and on to the more grownup world of grades six, seven and eight.

I’m excited, too. This is our 10th year of grade school, and the husband and I are almost as ready as our youngest is to be done with it.

But amidst all the anticipation of what’s coming, I’m trying to instill some gratitude for what’s passing. Instead of looking wholly toward firsts, we’re stopping to take stock of lasts:

  • The last movie night.
  • The last chorus concert.
  • The last day at the safety patrol post.
  • The last elementary school yearbook.

kids2This celebration of “lasts” is something parenthood insistently teaches me. And it’s a lesson I’ve been slow to learn. I wish I’d known the last time the boys and I would finger paint. The last time we’d play with modeling clay. The last time I’d sing Jesus Loves Me before bedtime — to both the children and their stuffed animals.

Don’t get me wrong. I love every stage my boys go through. I love watching my 15-year-old morph into the man he’s going to be; the fifth-grader mature into a strapping middle-schooler. I love watching their interests evolve from plastic dinosaurs to paleontology; from Pokemon video games to computer programming.

But I sometimes wish I’d lived more fully in the moment of the child — acknowledging and celebrating the sacred play of Thomas The Tank Engine; of I Spy With My Little Eyes …; of Play-Doh and finger paints and coloring books. Those times passed so quickly, and I didn’t get a chance to appreciate their end.

Congratulations, little boy. You’re almost a middle schooler. But for today — right now — you’re in fifth grade. Savor it. Enjoy it. Because in three days, it will be a memory.

And there’s something sacred about a “last.”