Every now and then, I let my mind wander back to the old days, to the old me.
I remember sitting on my roof outside my window late at night watching the big Kansas thunderstorms rolling through and talking on the phone. I can smell the rain on the shingles still warm from the day.
I remember the glorious feeling of going to sleep late on a weekend night, and knowing that the next morning I had nothing I had to wake up early for. I could sleep as late as I wanted and roll out of bed at my leisure.
I remember driving down the country roads with the windows down and the radio blaring, breathing in the sweet air of a summer night and getting hit on at stop lights.
I remember leisurely taking an hour to get ready and still never managing to be on time.
I remember going to the store. Alone. And wandering the mall. And eating dinner, and not standing up even once during the meal.
I remember when my stress was caused by whether a boy called me, who was dating whom, or if heaven forbid I didn’t have plans on a weekend night.
It’s not that I was selfish — it’s just that in that phase of life, I was living for me. I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s life. I was spontaneous. I was a hopeless romantic. I was a dreamer. I couldn’t have known any different until that part of my life was over.
It’s easy to romanticize the carefree parts of the past when those days are behind you and you’re immersed in motherhood. I always hoped for a big life, one that would matter. I couldn’t have known just how small a big life can be. I’m not out saving the world with the Peace Corps like I once planned. I haven’t traveled. I never did make it to Africa, and I haven’t solved the human trafficking crisis.
These days, more often than not, I’m summoned from my lunch to offer moral support while my child poops. I’m getting juice, changing diapers, and crying tears of exasperation when my 3-year-old is completely out of control despite the fact that I try to be a good parent. I’m escaping to Target for the sole purpose of leaving the house. I’m spoon feeding, making sandwiches, folding laundry, refolding laundry when little hands find it, cleaning the bathrooms while my big boy “helps” by spraying water everywhere, picking up and putting away, sweeping, and wiping — just to do it again in 14 hours. I’m trying and failing to match my husband’s dress socks correctly, and trying and usually succeeding to keep tabs on where everyone’s everything is.
I’m being woken by a tiny voice asking if we can snuggle. I’m listening to the soundtrack of sweet toddler songs and baby babbling filling my home. I’m answered with “I wub you too” and I’m covered in slobbery, snotty kisses. I’m singing “You are my sunshine” on a loop and I have a baby permanently glued to my hip. I’m climbed on and clung to and asked to be held. I’m skipping pants and makeup, and sneaking in showers, and yet my husband still tells me I’m beautiful.
You know, sometimes my mind does go back to those simple days before motherhood. And it lingers there for a minute or two, or maybe even a whole afternoon depending on the kind of day we’re having. But without fail, it comes back to my here and now, to my boys and my man, and I would choose this life over and over and over.
Someday I’ll sleep in again, and I’ll wish for that tiny voice to wake me up early. I’ll travel the world and long for the days of playing Legos in my living room all day long. I’ll miss the tiny laundry and the fingerprints on the windows and mirrors. I’ll get in the car and not buckle a single car seat, and I’ll miss having someone to lift into the cart and chat with through the store. I’ll miss having my bag overflowing with diapers and wipes and Hot Wheels cars, and having an excuse to always carry Teddy Grahams.
The days are long, but the years are far too short. I haven’t saved the world just yet, but the hopeless romantic and dreamer in me is still alive and well. The greatest dream I’ve ever had is now my reality. I’m living it right this second, and I’m head over heels in love.