To the Moms of Big Kids,
I saw you the other day at Chick-Fil-A. You watched me wrestle my crying newborn out of her carseat while I tried unsuccessfully to catch the lemonade that my two-year-old inevitably bumped off the table with her elbow. You gave me a sympathetic look and then turned back to your daughter who was telling you a story about something that happened on the playground at school that day. Your son, who must have been around ten, took a sip of his drink and very carefully placed it in front of him, (away from his elbows), before diverting his attention back to the book he was reading – all by himself.
I watched you and your children in between taking bites of my toddler’s leftover French fries and wiping ketchup off the table. You ate your salad. No, you enjoyed your salad. You enjoyed it without having to remind your kids to use their napkins instead of their shirts. Not once did you need to wipe your children’s nose or ask them to use their words. And I’m willing to bet that you didn’t drive home feeling guilty for telling your daughter that the indoor playground was closed that day. (You probably didn’t drive home listening to Elmo’s greatest hits, either.)
I see you everywhere. At the grocery store, the post office, and the library. Not you, exactly, but a different version of you. A mom with big kids – kids who dress themselves and go to school and shower independently. You look rested and well put-together. You wear make-up and real clothes and have real conversations. Sometimes you don’t even notice me, other times you give me a sympathetic smile, but most of the time you say things like, “I remember those days” or “enjoy them while they’re little. They grow up too fast.” I always smile back and give an appropriate response, but inside I wonder if you really remember. Do you really remember what it’s like to fall in your bed exhausted at 8:00pm after putting your toddler to bed, only to wake up two hours later to nurse your newborn? Do you remember the embarrassment of carrying your two-year-old out of Target kicking and screaming because you refused to buy her a toy? Do you remember when you didn’t even bother to shut the bathroom door, because really, what was the point?
Now that you’re a mom of big kids, I’m sure that it seems like only yesterday that you were in that phase of parenthood that required a diaper bag and at least two changes of clothes, but I’m living it right now and believe me, it seems anything but fast-moving. There are days I would give anything to be able to sit down to a meal without having to get up five times, days I would give anything to be the mom of a big kid who doesn’t need to be reminded to use a fork and take small bites. I know, I know, my kids will be in school “before I know it” and I know I won’t be changing diapers and tying shoes forever.
I know I will miss the days when all they wanted was me, but for now, I’d really like to pee alone.
Yesterday at the grocery store, you smiled at me and peeked at my newborn who was (finally) sleeping in the stroller. You told me how much you miss those days. I nodded in agreement, and immediately felt guilty because just that morning, I had wished life came with a fast forward button. I wished that I could skip days and weeks and years to a time when I didn’t have to say things like, “lollipops are not a breakfast food”, to a time when I didn’t have to read Goodnight Moon five times in a row. Just this morning, I listened to my two-year-old cry for ten minutes because she “didn’t want hands”, and I wondered, how is it possible to feel so lonely when you’re never alone? I know you miss it now, but did you ever feel this way when your big kids weren’t so big? Did you ever avoid looking in the mirror so you didn’t have to face the dark circles and unwashed hair? Did you resent your husband for getting to go to the office everyday? Did you ever wish your little kids were big kids?
Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful to be able to spend these precious years with my daughters and I know one day I will look back and think, “where has the time gone,” but for now, there are days when I’m barely surviving. And there are days (more than I’d like to admit) when I fantasize about a long, uninterrupted bath while my children play independently in their rooms, and a quiet house doesn’t make me nervous. I look forward to the day when I am able to drop my kids off at school, blow dry my hair, and drink my coffee while it’s still hot.
I know that time will come and when it does, I’ve already decided something. I’ve decided that when I’m the mom of big kids and I see a mom of little kids struggling to juggle a carseat and a cart full of groceries, I’m going to give her a big hug, and say, “I remember those days. I miss them, but sometimes, they sucked.”