Thursday, October 13, 2011

Earning My Stripes

The other day at the park, there were a group of mothers with toddlers who looked to be about 15-18 months. That wonderfully dangerous age where they are suddenly mobile, but lack the sense to know exactly how to use this new-found freedom. While I was sitting on a bench, knitting a Sounders scarf for my husband and keeping my third eye on my monkeys, the toddler-moms were trying to have a conversation with each other about baby food making and the best walking shoes in between smelling bottoms, hovering near the end of the slide, and snatching wobbly little legs from the edges of things.

I caught a few sidelong glances from the moms and double checked that my own little playground monkeys were being careful around the wee ones. No problems there today. I figured I'd imagined the glances and went back to knitting. A few minutes later, as one of the moms scooped about a half a pound of sand out of her son's mouth for about the 67th time, she turned to me and said "When do we get to knit?!"

I remember all too well the hovercraft days. My wee hooligan ate so much dirt as a toddler, the doctor wanted him tested for Pica (turns out he was just suffering from an acute case of being two.) My J-Bird was born independent and out-going and would toddle off to chat with whomever was around, no matter where we went; often inviting them to our house or giving them our phone number that she had so proudly memorized. I remember not being able to finish a sentence before having to sprint over and catch one or the other of them standing at the top of the big slide, leaning their out-sized heads out over the void. One trip to the pumpkin patch a few years ago, while I was helping Jane struggle with the pumpkin cutting shears taller than she was, I heard the sweetest little voice behind me say softly: "Deee-wicious!" I turned just in time to see Joe taking a huge bite of the dirt clod he was holding. IT WAS AN ORGANIC PUMPKIN FARM! Do you know what they use to fertilize their fields?!

I remember viciously envying the moms with clean hair and jeans that fit. I remember fashioning a diaper out of public restroom paper towels.  I remember how giant and wild and solid and careening the 4-year-olds at the park looked compared to my little bowlegged adventurers. I remember unceremoniously scooping up squirming masses of legs and elbows and hoofing it out of Dodge before all three of us burst into tears of exhaustion and frustration.

And suddenly, I realized I was remembering this stuff. These things were no longer a part of my day to day existence. I have no idea now what baby food mills are the best on the market or what shoes are good for early walkers, but there was a time in the not-so-distant past when those very things occupied a great deal of my mental energy and precious free time. My monkeys and I have moved on to new preoccupations now that will eventually become irrelevant as well.

There are days that seem like they are 107 years long. Some nights, even longer. There are moments when you think you might just lie down in the sand box and kick and scream along with them. And there are definitely times when you think you will subsist the rest of your life on discarded Goldfish crackers, crusts of rejected sandwiches and 16 gallons of coffee a day; that the rest of your life you are destined to make small talk about bodily functions; that you will never again be witty or intelligent because perhaps half your brain cells exited through your birth canal. But suddenly one day, you're sitting at the park with freshly washed hair, knitting a scarf while your monkeys play nicely on their own two legs and sipping a cup of coffee for its flavor instead of gulping it for its restorative properties and taking a moment to enjoy the sunshine and the scenery.

 I'm nowhere near done parenting yet. Not even halfway. I could strangle every person who says "Oh, they grow up so fast!". But this sudden bit of perspective, provided in the plaintive question from a frazzled mom - "When do we get to knit?!"- reminded me that nothing is forever, even when it feels like it might be. We just keep trudging, skipping, catching, playing, changing, wiping, yawning, crying, laughing through these days, one after another until suddenly we find ourselves on the other side of something.

That day at the park, I changed colors on the stripes I was knitting, tried my very hardest not to look smug, and smiled as I told her "Sooner than you think."


  1. I loved this. I'm seeing glimpses of when I won't have to be on top of my kids all the time... it's glorious!

  2. Thank you! I think we'll always have to be on top of them in different ways, but at least they eventually stop eating sand! Most of the time...


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