Today, no one insisted that I sit and watch cartoons. No one wanted me to read just one more story. No one sat on my lap or wiggled their fingers under the closed bathroom door or begged to go with me to the grocery store.
No one woke me up too early. No one ate food from my plate. No one asked me to play with them.
Really, at first it was a relief. How can I forget those exhausting days of carrying around babies and negotiating with preschoolers and enduring the bedtime routine? I lived my own Groundhog Day that began before each dawn with a crying baby or a small person standing bedside repeating “MOM MOM MOM” until I’d wake.
My kids were never good at sleeping in.
But today I did not wipe anyone’s nose. I did not supervise tooth-brushing or hand-washing. I didn’t wake anyone up, pick out anyone’s clothes, tie anyone’s shoes or put anyone to bed. I didn’t kiss any “owies” or affix any Band-aids.
Back then, I spent my days parceling out Goldfish crackers and signing homework folders and begging kids to close the door to the back yard. Kids left trails of muddy footprints and piles of Pokemon cards while Nickelodeon television provided the soundtrack to our lives.
I said things like, “STOP WRESTLING!” and “Please turn that down!” and “Where are your shoes?” I was exasperated, on edge, overwhelmed with noise and touch and questions. There was never enough and always too much. I just wanted to get away and when I was away, I felt incredible guilt that I wasn’t right back in the midst of it all. Even when my husband said, “Fine, go,” I felt like it was a gigantic imposition, an unreasonable request to escape the clutter and bickering and noise.
Why couldn’t I just embrace the bedlam of living with babies and toddlers and preschoolers and kids? I spent far too much time plotting my escape, counting down until bedtime, dreaming of the time I could shrug them off and sit alone and read a novel in peace. For an introvert, motherhood feels like a raucous party where everyone screams with laughter, throws food and the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself think. I just wanted a moment.
Well, that moment has come.
I’m no longer the main character in their story. I’m not their hero. The pure devotion of early childhood has been replaced by know-it-all judgment of kids who can’t remember the fun things we did specifically for them in forgotten years. No one gazes at me in adoration except my dog.
I’ve been writing about time and its slippery shape-shifting nature for so many years and yet, while I was watching, it slipped away from me, some sort of sleight of hand that occurred despite my scrutiny. I was watching the whole time! I never took my eyes off it and abracadabra, it disappeared anyway!
I have some of the space and quiet that I longed for in those busy years.
I’m not going to say it’s overrated. Sleeping without a kid hogging your pillow or waking you up is awesome. Leaving the kids home while running to the store is excellent. I don’t miss car seats or sippy cups or diapers. There are a lot of upsides to having half-grown kids who only need you for the twenty-bucks you occasionally hand out.
But if I could go back and hold a child on my lap and read a picture book–slowly, without skipping pages–I would. I would watch cartoons and take a slow walk around the block and bask in being the most important person in their world. I’d make snakes out of Play-Doh and build super-high towers out of blocks and play Chutes & Ladders, even though that game never seems to end.
Hug your babies, mamas, for the day will come when they talk to their friends more than they talk to you and they will criticize your ideas and think you are ridiculous and roll their eyes at your silly rules. They will slip out of your grasp and run out of your sight and not answer their phones. They will scare you when you hand them the keys and you are a passenger instead of the driver. (They will get so mad when you scream when they change lanes during a turn in the middle of an intersection.)
This, too, shall pass.
Take notes, take photos and take heart for this, too, shall pass.