You look tired and overwhelmed and miserable. You’re standing in front of me at the airport on a long line of people waiting to order food and drink. The baby in the stroller is flinging herself backward because she has clearly been wronged in some visceral, gut-wrenching way or maybe just because she wants to be set free. The toddler with his runny nose has unfurled both of his grubby little paws in fully prone position up against the glass enclosure contemplating the array of pastries being offered.
“Please,” you beg him “don’t wipe your hands all over the glass.” “A donut,” he starts to yell, “I want a donut.” “No,” you say firmly, “a donut is not a thing to eat early in the morning.” “BUT MOMMY I WANT A DONUT,” he shouts. “Please pick something a little healthier like a croissant,” you plead. There is really nothing you can do and with a line of people behind you, you heave a heavy sigh and say, “The donut please.” I know you think you’ve lost the battle but my young mommy friend, it’s just another skirmish and don’t worry you have not lost the war. You have chosen to live to fight another day and it’s the best decision you can make given the circumstances.
My hands are free. I have nothing to carry but myself. Today I have no one to constrain my travels and it’s easy to forget those days. It’s easy to forget the chasing, the mollifying and the endless cajoling and negotiating. I think about saying something comforting to you but I’m sure a heartfelt, “this too shall pass” will be meaningless to you in the heat of the moment so I ruffle the boy’s hair and smile benevolently at you.
If I could speak to you now I would tell you that these days will eventually pass. You will smooth the edges off of these early childhood memories. You will forget exactly how tired and frustrated you were and instead you will remember the sweet little hands and the cherubic little face that have over the years become surprisingly long and angular.
The worst stories will become war stories, the stuff of family lore. Someone will say remember when junior screamed that he wanted a donut for three hours while juniorette was attempting harakiri in the stroller and you will all chuckle because you won’t forget that it was hard but you will not remember how truly, deeply, bone wearying it all was.
And, before you know it your grown son will stand next to you tall and very adult-like and you will approach the food counter together. You will decide to throw nutrition to the wind and order a donut. Your son will say, “Really mom, a donut for breakfast,” as he orders his yogurt and fruit. Then you will pause and wonder, when exactly did he stop careening down airport aisles unthinkingly bashing into other travelers? When did he become a person who is smart and focused and sensible? When did he start judging YOUR eating habits?
And, heaven help you, when did you become the older mom, the one who pats toddlers on the head and smiles benevolently at their exhausted young mommies?
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