Recently I was chatting with my dentist (as I do) because 1.) I have high levels of anxiety at the dentist which causes me to over share and babble (more than is usual), and 2.) my dentist is awesome, and I was telling her about how I’d just talked to my 20-year-old daughter who was in NYC with my husband, sitting on a park bench in Central Park reading a book.
“Can you imagine having 24 hours to just do nothing? 24 hours all to yourself?” she asked, with an incredulous look on her face.
She’s not only a dentist, she’s the mother of 6-year-old twins.
The stress levels I imagine that woman endures on a daily basis kills me.
I mirrored her expression.
“I KNOW,” I said. “Can you imagine?”
But here’s the thing.
I lied. (Don’t be shocked, it’s not the first time I’ve lied to my dentist — “Yes, I floss regularly” and “I’ll see you in six months!” come to mind.)
Because I can imagine it. If not 24 hours, at least a good 12.
Because I am the mother of grown up kids.
And sweetheart, let me tell you, that’s a game changer.
Sure, now that my designated chauffeur is in college and left me back in the driver’s seat, I’m running the other girl around town—or at least picking her up from the high school—every afternoon or evening. And sure, there are the frantic “Are you going to Target today?” and the “Oh, crap, I left my ______ at home, can you bring it to me?” texts (I jump on the first one even if the answer is no because it means I have an excuse to go and usually ignore the second). And sure, I do technically still have to feed the remaining child, but thankfully she’s picky and only eats a few things on a rotating basis and knows how to scramble an egg and flip a quesadilla, so she’s surviving just fine thankyouverymuch.
But as far as bath times, bed times, battles, and tantrums?
The only ones I have to worry about anymore are my own.
My role as a mother has shifted.
I’m not physically needed as much as I once was.
Do I have moments when I get nostalgic for the days I had little girls?
I’d happily endure an entire day at Chuck E. Cheese to see those good morning smiles from the crib or to spend just five minutes with each of them at 3-years-old … as long as I didn’t have to rescue anyone from the ball pit of bacteria.
But there’s a lot I don’t miss.
I’ll be honest, I loved my little kids and I loved being a mother of my little kids, but the truth of the matter is that I sometimes didn’t love little kids.
Besides the motherload of cleaning, cooking, bathing, taxi driving, refereeing, and hours of mundane make believe games where your child tells you who to be and what you’re allowed to say, I don’t miss:
Birthday parties – The planning, expense, and ensuing disaster where you willingly chaperone 10 or more screaming kids you didn’t create, which usually ends with the one you did in tears.
Vacations – The planning, the packing, and the executing with many worrisome unknowns like if the hotel restaurant’s chicken fingers will have the desirable crusty breading or the shitty panko breadcrumbs which will lead to panic and starvation.
Sleeping – I’m sorry, what? The last time you slept well was most likely the night of conception. (During…after…whichever.)
Restaurants – More specifically, the bathrooms in restaurants, which is where you spend all your time when you’re not cutting up or blowing on food while yours gets cold.
Shopping – More bathrooms, some screaming, and usually one good diaper blowout—all in the first five minutes.
Summer – Effectively ruined by whining, boredom, constant sunscreen application, and the fact that you can never day drink by a body of water because you might have to jump in and save someone.
The Park – A place that always, always sounds more fun than is, especially when some little jerk steals your kid’s sand bucket and their asshat parent doesn’t notice because she’s paying more attention to her phone.
Eating – Wait. That grilled cheese isn’t made with Kraft American? Give it to the dog, fool, and don’t even think about pulling that shit again.
Attention – Watch me. Watch me. Watch me. Are you watching? Watch me again.
Playdates – There’s always that one kid who comes over. You know the one. The one who follows you around asking for snacks and then acts like she’s so above Goldfish and juice boxes and suddenly you’re defending the damn snack food that’s in your pantry to a four-year-old who you don’t even like.
The other day I was walking into Target and there was a mother trying to get her three kids into the cart. One was in a baby seat, one was standing in the back of the cart, and the other was being instructed, loudly, to HOLD ONTO THE CART WHEN WE’RE WALKING THROUGH THE PARKING LOT. As she pushed the cart with the baby seat balancing on the front and the toddler dancing in the back, the older kid took off running. He wasn’t about that way of life, apparently.
And as I was slowly walking in, all by myself, with my brain free to think my own thoughts, I realized that I’m not either. Sure, I miss the days when there would always be a tiny hand in mine when we’d walk through the Target parking lot (my girls never took off running because they were perfect of course). In fact, I miss it so much it hurts to try to conjure up the feeling of that tiny hand.
But there’s a trade.
Because as I stood in line at Starbucks while the kids yelled at the mom to buy them stickers over at the dollar spot, I was happy. Happy that I could sip on my PSL while leisurely looking at fall scarves and cardigans; happy that I can read more than five pages of a book uninterrupted; happy that I can go for a walk with my daughter without having to stop and wait for her to pick up rocks every two feet; happy that I can take a 3:00 nap in the afternoon (or a 1:00 nap, or a 5:00 nap); happy that I can tell everyone to make their own dinner or share the baguette I’m eating for my own (but only a little bit of it); happy that I can watch TV shows during the day that don’t contain annoying and unintelligent cartoon characters that ask obvious questions; happy that shopping trips don’t end with screaming (unless we’re shopping for jeans and talking about me); and happy that I am still needed, but not to break up fights or clean up bodily fluids.
When your kids are little you never think you’ll get here, this balanced nirvana where you’re regularly rested and showered and actually want to watch your children perform for you. And as much as I wax nostalgic about my daughters’ childhoods on the blog, I have to admit that maybe time isn’t as big of an enemy as I often accuse it of being.
Because let me tell you, having all the memories I have and getting to look at fall scarves in peace? That, my friends, is the real motherload.
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