Sometimes a woman my age gets nostalgic. Sometimes I remember with longing the joyful craziness of my life twenty years ago, when I was a busy mom. I’d like to go back for just one day and experience it all over again.
My sister-in-law works as an occupational therapist, mostly with elderly clients. “I miss my kids,” a woman told her one day during her therapy session.
“Don’t your children live nearby?”
“They do,” said the woman. “But I miss my kids when they were little.”
I totally get that. I miss my kids when they were little, too. I miss the cuddly, powder-smelling newborns, and the adorable chirps, squeaks and grunting noises they make. I miss the chubby toddler faces and tickle-produced giggles. It was wonderful to be adored by tiny humans who wanted to spend all their time with me because I was so fantastic. Watching them experience the firsts – the feel of grass on bare feet, the taste of chocolate ice cream, swinging at the park – was like experiencing it all for the first time myself. I’d forgotten, until I took a toddler for a walk, how fascinating bugs and dirt and birds can be.
I miss them curled up beside me and on my lap as we read aloud hundreds of books, beginning with picture books and graduating to chapter books. I miss our family road trips, driving across the country to visit grandparents. And other fun travels – Washington, DC; a disastrous and hilarious camping trip (you must try the plains of Nebraska on a humid, windy night, especially with gnats flying up your nose); a visit to an observatory in Goldendale, Washington where we got a private tour and saw Saturn’s rings; and a most amazing trip to Israel.
In case you think I’m being entirely too romantic about this, I also remember the unrelenting exhaustion of parenting young children. The delightful and intense toddler stage is both the best and the worst. If only they could tell you what they want instead of screaming and pointing, or throwing themselves on the floor in complete despair. If only they didn’t need you every second. I remember the complicated calculations required to find ten minutes where they would be busy and not endangering their lives while I took a shower. How many days did I encourage myself with the fact that it was only one more hour until nap time, and I could make it? And there’s nothing like the unbelievable feeling of freedom when my husband and I went out for an evening and were able to think whole thoughts and have entire conversations, without cleaning food off the floor, or bargaining with a stubborn child to eat just ONE BITE of the evil broccoli they were convinced was intended to kill them.
And then there was the ultimate test of survival – potty training. If you’re a young mother reading this, let me tell you something – read the books on potty training, which are filled with wise and utopian advice. And then remember that your children have not read the books, and will most likely refuse to cooperate in the manner or within the time frame the books assure you they will. But somehow they will not go to kindergarten wearing diapers.
But there was something incredibly sweet about those years. Even the teenage years, with all the angst and insecurities, theirs and mine, but also the satisfaction of watching them grow into fledgling adulthood. I can still see my daughter driving away by herself for the first time after getting her driver’s license, and I remember the sharpness of conflicting emotions – relief (No more Taxi Mom!) and sheer terror (What was I thinking? That child needs to not drive until she is 30!) I can still see my son draped over the club chair in the family room after school, doing homework and chatting me up while I made dinner.
I miss it all.
I think that missing my kids when they were little is a bittersweet fact of life for a woman my age. And it’s an appropriate reminder to enjoy the good things of today, because they will be tomorrow’s memories.
But no matter what changes, and as much as I miss my little children, I’ll always treasure these two words that regularly come from my two grown up kids: “Hi Mom!”