Monday, February 16, 2009

Although I Do Look Forward to One Day Having Everyone Sleep Through the Night

The girls and I spent the morning at a meeting of our old playgroup, the one that was formed three years ago when the four of us moms all had 1-1/2-year-olds and were all pregnant with our second babies, and that has since pretty much disbanded since those 1-1/2-year-olds are now all preschoolers on different school schedules. (How is it possible, that the babies we all met each other with are now four years old, and the then-in-utero bundles are now older than our firstborns were when we started?)

It is a rare occasion (like today, a school holiday) that all--or most--of us are free to get together to play, and nothing brings back a bittersweet swell of nostalgia like sitting in someone's living room on a breezy late-winter weekday morning, exchanging motherhood news and advice over the din of children playing trucks and blocks and baby-dolls, just like we've done so many times before, since our "big kids" were toddlers. I have a lot of memories attached to playgroup. Like the time I drove all the way home from a playgroup meeting in the country with newborn Genevieve's infant-carseat straps unbuckled. Remember that? Ah, yes.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my current mothering life, and how it differs from my new-motherhood life, and how I don't even really consciously know the ways in which it is different, because it has evolved organically over time as I've grown into my role and into this life of parenting two. Of parenting babies, and then toddlers, and beyond. But how if I could somehow peek back at my former parenting life--say, when we lived in south Minneapolis with Julia as a baby--I wouldn't even recognize that routine, that existence, that self. Would I even remember what it was like to be hardly able to get outside once a day with my colicky newborn, how there were no friends, no other children, no fellow moms, just me in the house alone with one baby who nursed nonstop and cried the rest of the time? What did I even do, then? Did I ever cook, or clean, during those days? What did I do with myself then, with us? I don't really recall, other than a flash here and there of memories that give me stomachaches. A vague sense of being very, very lonely. A lot to do, and a lot of nothing to do, all at the same time.

It's so different now. Last week it grew warm and the snow melted, and I took the girls for a walk to the park. We took the stroller in case Genevieve wanted to ride, and I know we're almost grown out of the stroller, I know our stroller days are almost done, but I brought it anyway, because it KILLS ME to say goodbye to that vestige of babyhood, such a symbol of new-parenthood, a young-family icon: the stroller. And even more so: the double stroller.

And I could just die, because what came in the mail that very same day, but Julia's KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION FORMS. Oh my, my mama heart aches. All this time I thought I wanted my high-maintenance, intellectually precocious firstborn to give me five minutes' peace during which THERE WAS NO TALKING WHATSOEVER, and here I'm faced with an upcoming life of Julia off to school every single weekday morning, and all I can think is how I'm not ready for my five years to be up. You know what I mean, don't you? You get these five years alone with your babies--truly, not even five full years, because of course they go off to preschool at age three or four and you lose them a little bit then, but it's not every day, so it's not quite the same. You get these five years of you and them--and this is why I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, so I would get those five years of all-day time with them--and you can have your idiosyncratic mornings, your pj's till 11 a.m. days, your on-a-whim decisions of park or library or coffee shop. And then your solid time with them is done, and never again, save for summer vacations if you're still an at-home mom, will you get long uninterrupted stretches of days with them, of time when they don't spend half or more of their waking hours with other people, other kids and adults, sometimes people you hardly know. And maybe some moms are overjoyed when this milestone arrives, dreaming of solo bathroom visits and those fabled five minutes of silence, but I don't know. Do I really have to be giving up the stroller AND filling out kindergarten forms at the same time? Is someone trying to do me in?

I'm currently accepting sympathetic condolences, experienced-parent anecdotes, and special deliveries of prescription mood-enhancing pharmaceuticals. Thank you.


Mnmom said...

I make a lot of jokes about needing my kids to leave me alone, but in truth they are my oxygen. Every year on the first day of school, I really resent having to turn them over to the larger world. That's why you schedule vacations with just the 4 of you. Extended family is great, but you have to maintain the unit identity. Even when they are surly teens, you'd be surprised how they mellow when it's just your nuclear unit, with no phones, no internet, etc.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Shannon. I wish I had something amazing to say to you. But, I don't.

I like to think about the past and remember the baby days. But at the same time, I'm so amazed at what the kids are able to do each day that I look forward to seeing what is in store next. Not that I don't get sentimental, mind you.

Dare I wonder if some of your feelings about not wanting the kids to grow up is also tied into the fact that you aren't ready to go back to work?

Shan said...

Anonymous, yes, I'm sure. Especially since as a psychologist who used to specialize in pre-teens, teens, and families, I know all too well that older kids need parents at home (if possible) as much as and sometimes even more so than they do when they're babies/toddlers. But how to make that work financially and logistically and in every other way, when everyone kind of expects that once your kids are in school, you go back to work? Plus, how to justify the over-achiever degree/education/career that I don't feel like returning to?

Shan said...

P.S. I'm also just a total sentimental sap of a mama. There's that, too. :)