I have been feeling extraneous lately and I am not used to that and I do not like it. You know, when my children were little I had a rich fantasy life. I might have looked like I was washing dishes or folding 10,000 tiny little tee-shirts or picking the gum out of the carpet, but in actuality I was someplace far, far away, someplace better.
I was in my secret world where everyone in my family took care of their own hygiene, where all the clothes were big enough to make sense when you folded them, or better yet, a world where all the clothes went on hangers.
I was in a world where everyone could not only locomote under their own steam at all times, but had long enough legs to keep up with me and could be trusted not to wander off and get lost.
I was imagining a happy place where my whole family participated in intellectually stimulating dinner table conversations, where we shared thoughts and dreams and never, ever worried about why Bert was so grumpy to Ernie.
I imagined a day when I could say, "I am running to the store," then grab my purse and go without having to find and tie everybody’s shoes, pack emergency clothing and tote a diaper bag that weighed one sixth my body weight. In those days I might have looked like I was helping to color a picture of the princess and the pea but where I would really be, behind my eyes, was in the glimmering future.
The future is now, friends. I am here to tell you that it is not everything I thought it would be. Maybe I am ungrateful. Maybe I am one of those people who will never be happy no matter what. I don’t like to think that, but maybe it is true. You see, my family has reached that happy time I spent so many hours dreaming about.
They bathe themselves, dress themselves, read to themselves, fix their own lunches. Not only do they walk efficiently, but they also jog for miles on end without getting the least bit winded. Not only do they jog efficiently, but most of them drive. Some of them actually own vehicles.
For those who still need me to give them the occasional ride, they want to get where they are going. Period. They do not want to bond. They do not want to share their inner-most feelings. No. They want to jump in the car, take the shortest possible route, and jump out at their destination.
It is not an event. It is not an emotional interlude. It is not a celebration of our relationship. It is transportation of the least possible desirable kind. The mom driving kind as opposed to the friend driving kind or the self driving kind. They will chat, in a pleasant way, but I can tell that they are humoring me.
They are talking and laughing and telling me funny stories, but their minds are a million miles away and they check the mirror frequently to make sure their noses are still there or to see if they got prettier or uglier in the preceding ten seconds.
I know this is the natural course of things. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It never occurred to me when the kids were little and I was imagining them bigger and less needy, that I would someday become the needy one.
That I would try to bribe them to come to the grocery store with me just for the company. That I would wait eagerly for them to get home in the evenings. That I would miss having them need me. I never imagined that I would miss toddler chatter.
If someone had told me the day would come when I would yearn for the smell of baby shampoo and pureed green beans I would have laughed in that person’s face. Ha! Not me, not ever. Ha, I would have said.
When my children were young older people would sometimes tell me, "Enjoy them now, because they will be grown up before you know it!"
Oh I certainly hope so, I would think, in my ignorance. I cannot say that I wasn’t warned. Some days it seemed like every middle aged person I ran into had the same pearls of wisdom for me, "enjoy them now."
I was warned well and often, but I didn’t believe it. I did not believe the day would ever come when they would not need me on an hourly basis. I cannot believe that day came so soon.