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By Meghan Peterson.
“Primum.” – in the first.
“A primo.” – from the first.
First days of the year. First month of the year. First beginnings. First steps. First principles. First liberties. The idea of “firsts” is a common one to associate with January, the temporal marker of a new year.
My sons and I have been discussing the concept of “first things first.” Typically, I will say something like, “Boys, we need to do first things first.” Older Boy (he turns 4 years old soon, but he informed me the other day that he is actually 60) asks “Mommy, what does ‘first things first’ mean?” I pause for a moment, as I do when he asks questions that make me realize not to take – or speak – phrases at face value. “Well…it means that we address the things we absolutely need to so that we can do the rest of our day.” Older Boy looks at me, searching my face for a clearer answer than the gobbledy-gook philosophizing I just gave. “Like what, Mommy?” He wants specifics. I do not blame him.
I meet him where he is.
“Like making your bed. Like getting out of your jammies and into your play clothes. Like eating all of your breakfast before you can have the cookie you made yesterday. Like being thankful for yet another day we have to play, learn, and laugh. Like giving me a hug. Like giving your brother a hug.” Older Boy’s look of puzzlement turns into one of contentment. “I am hungry, Mommy!” Meanwhile, Younger Boy has watched the entire conversation but quickly realized it was over his head – for now. We end the discussion and initiate one of the “first things first” items: preparing breakfast.
These are the actions, the tasks, the practices we do to establish the tone of the day – and to prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for whatever comes next.
First things first. What “first things first” are we going to prioritize as a town, a state, a nation? Who and what will we put first? What are the underpinning conditions for firsts anyway? When – and if – we can begin to answer that question, we may be on to something: the urgency of first freedoms, first ideals, first goals. So, may we all find encouragement to put first things first in order to strive for excellence, pursue the optimal, and be at our prime. Carpe diem meus amicus et mea amica!
Of course, my sons would contend that “first things first” means play time. On that note, let me return to my firsts: those rascals who demanded the conversation in the first place.