A week or so ago the humidity broke in Richmond. The change is massive. And I’m not just talking about how the air feels, but everyone is acting differently. We’re all just happier. It’s still hot, but the sharp edge of summer has retreated. It’s like the music is still loud but someone finally turned the subwoofer down.
We’re lingering at mailboxes, staying at the playground past 8 a.m., and walking to the bus stop without taking along something to wipe your sweat.
I decided to take advantage of this narrow phase of low-humidity and have a picnic lunch with Anna. I don’t do this in the dead of summer. The heat and humidity beats me down. But this late September afternoon, we spread a quilt in the yard and ate leftover chicken and strawberries we picked from the yard. We talked about her morning at preschool, and giggled every time the chickens tried to join our picnic.
We had a wonderful lunch. Not complicated, just lovely.
Just as lunch was wrapping up, I decided to run inside and grab my camera. This is my last year before all four kids are in school, and I vacillate between being SO READY for them all to be gone and feeling complete panic that this phase of parenting is all of the sudden over. It went so fast.
Afternoons like this are exactly why I loved the little years, and why I feel a pang of sadness that they’re over. Simple, special moments are — and I promise I’m not being dramatic — the greatest joy of my life.
My kids are getting older. I don’t have any babies or even toddlers anymore. I find myself edging out of the “mom of very young kids” category and into the “mom of young kids” category. Or do I even fit there? Am I just a “mom of kids”?
I realized this, not because of the reality of my kids’ ages, but because of the way I talk to other moms. Instead of commiserating about skipped naps, I say “Oh, I remember that. My toddlers skipped naps all the time and it was AWFUL!”
This is the beginning of me becoming one of those ladies in the grocery store, isn’t it? This is how it starts. One day you’re the mom with the oldest kid at the elementary school bus stop, telling everyone about how in 2017 the bus was never late, and kids didn’t even have Chromebooks! Next, I’ll be cruising Kroger looking for a new mom to criticize for bringing her infant out in public.
As far as I can tell, there are two ways to look back on life with babies and toddlers. You can enter into every conversation like an athlete in the pain Olympics. Oh you think YOU have it hard? IIIIIIII had it hard. I had six kids in three years! Back then we didn’t have baby monitors or sound machines, much less three seasons of Bluey!
Alternatively, you can look back on it with what the kids these days call “toxic positivity.” Ah, yes, I had 12 kids under the age of four and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE! My kids always slept, and when they didn’t I was so glad because it meant more time to play with them!
The latter always sort of annoyed me because I felt like they weren’t acknowledging the hard work of raising kids. What about the ear infections or vomit down your back at 2 a.m.? What about changing a blowout in your lap in the parking lot of a rest stop? What about the daily grind of tantrums and constant questions? What about that?
I’m only about a half a second removed from babies, and I already get the rose-colored glasses. I already understand making the choice to forget all those bodily fluids, and instead looking back on those years with nothing but affection.
It’s like going to see your favorite band and, instead of focusing on the traffic on the way to the venue or how much your feet hurt, you remember singing at the top of your lungs to your favorite song, or how it felt like your heartbeat synced with the drum solo.
When I talk about my kids, I’ll talk about days like this.
It’s not because every day is like this, or even that the entire days was like this. But moments like this are like bits of a mosaic. These small bits are unique and beautiful on their own, for sure. But when you have the time to catch your breath and take a few steps back, that’s when you realize that these moments come together to make something remarkable.