Writing About the Joys of Firsts

In October, I wrote about all the things that stress out kids today. It was kind of a downer. I mean, from my post, you’d think life pretty much sucked for anyone pre-21.

Is that the case? No! Sure, kids today have lots of stresses, many of which are bigger than the same stresses were fifty years ago; on the flip side, fewer of today’s young people stress out about where they will get their next meal or whether Dad will come back from war in one piece. Stresses come and go with time.

*Photo courtesy of Lel4nd on Flickr Creative Commons

Since then, I’ve been wanting to follow up with something more upbeat. Yes, today’s young people face lots of pressure and stress from multiple directions, but they also experience more pure fun in a week than most of us fuddy-duddy grownups manage in a year. I think that’s part of why I enjoy writing for young people: it reminds me to see life’s joys and wonders as if for the first time—as if I, too, were a child.

Are you writing for children or teenagers? Then maybe this list of “firsts” will inspire!

  1. First pet
  2. First day of school
  3. First show-and-tell
  4. First best friend—first person like yourself
  5. First school trip
  6. First contest
  7. First time you realize you’re good at something
  8. First win
  9. First performance
  10. First sleepover
  11. First party
  12. First slumber party
  13. First summer camp
  14. First team sport
  15. First club or after-school activity
  16. First opportunity to help a friend
  17. First time at being an expert at something
  18. First time in authority
  19. First choices of priorities
  20. First time solo trip across town
  21. First night home alone
  22. First time hanging out at the mall
  23. First time you have a “group”
  24. First crush
  25. First boyfriend or girlfriend
  26. First kiss
  27. First school dance
  28. First gift for a significant other
  29. First time driving
  30. First car
  31. First financial responsibilities
  32. First job
  33. First all-nighter
  34. First time considering college

Many “first” are really changes in understanding:

  1. Realizing that, against all odds, you’ve found friends who like some of the same stuff you like, think sort of like you, and laugh at your jokes
  2. Realizing that you can save money for something you want
  3. Figuring out that there are things that matter more than…well, things
  4. Starting to figure out who you are and what’s important to you
  5. Understanding that you can make a difference in this world
  6. Realizing that there is something you like about yourself
  7. Finding something you don’t like about yourself
  8. Figuring out that you can change
  9. Seeing that you’ve worked really, really, really hard at something and accomplished something you’re proud about
  10. Realizing that you have choices
  11. Seeing that your life spreads before you like an amusement park waiting to be explored
  12. Believing that you have some degree of control over your future
  13. Realizing that you can follow your dreams, and that attaining them might actually be possible
  14. Figuring out that you are more than your parents’ words and wishes
  15. Figuring out that, despite the above, you kind of like your parents and they might be okay people.
  16. Believing that you can actually survive embarrassment
  17. Knowing that you can survive failure
  18. Seeing that you are stronger than you thought

What “firsts” do you see kids enjoying today? What “firsts” appear in your writing?

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You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. says

    Great post, Cheryl. There is a lot to think about here. I added your post to my list of links for “Firsts” under the ABCs of writing middle grade fiction over at my blog.

  2. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Andrea, thank you!

  3. says

    Great lists–just glancing at some of those and I had an immediate emotional response.
    Perfect for creating stories!

    • Cheryl Reif says

      Cool–I had the same thing happen as I wrote the lists. These are the sort of memories that stick with you…