I caught a glimpse of her pushing her double stroller along the side of the road as I sped by in my car on my way to crossing things off my list and getting things done.
The baby slept while her toddler twisted around in her seat. The woman, who seemed more a girl with her ponytail and workout clothes, slowed her pace, then reached down into the basket underneath and handed her a sippy cup. Satisfied, the child sat back down and enjoyed the scenery while her mom strode onward to some unknown destination, the exercise and fresh air the most important part of the excursion.
My heart smiled, remembering that time both long ago and only yesterday when just getting out of the house was an accomplishment. When I couldn’t let my kids go without a good cry, stalked the nursery school, reveled in my martyrdom, ate up every bit of deliciousness and mourned the passage of time.
I loved being that mom. I loved her so much. And I loved those babies in an almost cripplingly powerful way. I wanted nothing for myself but to peacefully sink into the overwhelming undertow, going under without struggle and no intention or interest in coming up for air. At times it seemed stressful, caring for these needy, fragile creatures, but mostly we rode our days along peacefully with a few good friends who made all the difference.
But now, I’m different. I’m older. My babies are no longer babies. They are 7, 10 and almost 13. I no longer have time to stroll, or even a stroller to push. My sippy cups have been replaced with sports bottles. I drive because my world has kicked into a higher gear and I need to keep up the pace. Beep beep, chop chop, let’s move it along, lady.
And I like it. The constant motion, the shift in priorities—I’m almost a person again! Having children who can actually (when they decide to) communicate and express themselves. Who are complicated, interesting and (when they decide to be) capable. Who are smart and strong and (except to each other) kind. Who are growing into young men I like, who make me proud and happy and grateful.
But I guess like all things past, I’m sentimental. It was an age of innocence, theirs and mine. A time to laugh when you’re late for a music class and you just dropped your coffee on the floor and your baby pooped through his clothes again. A time to cry when you’re working on three hours of sleep with a newborn and your oldest sneaks into your bed in the middle of the night and throws up on you. A time to dance to Laurie Berkner and giggle with the Wiggles. And a time for endless walks with a good friend, a stroller stocked with goldfish and lollipops and your babies at the center of your world.
And you still at the center of theirs.