On the weekend, I took the kids to swimming lessons. There’s a Parent And Tot class in the pool at the same time.
I spent a lot of time watching the parents and their wee ones. You can always spot the parents who are out with their first child. The dad or mom is in the pool with the kid, while the other parent claps enthusiastically from the sidelines, calling out encouragement, rushing over with a towel for cuddles and praise at the end of the lesson.
When I see really young families like this I get nostalgic, although I wouldn’t really want to go back to the world of diapers and naps and mystery screaming and having to cart around a giant stroller all the time.
Those parents aren’t so many years behind me but it feels like a lifetime ago. I’m in some kind of parenthood limbo now where I have passed out of the fog of babyhood, but haven’t yet entered the terror of teenagers. It’s a good phase.
I find myself now constantly wondering what other parents, other mothers, think when they see me out with my kids. Whenever I was out with a baby – or two, or three – we’d get a lot of wistful looks, a lot of older ladies stopping to tell us how lovely the kids were, a lot of “boy, you must be busy!” type comments. We drew attention.
I admit I was rather wrapped up in the world of who-dropped-the-sippy-cup to pay much attention to mothers with older kids that I passed in the mall, unless it was to briefly gaze at them in envy, wishing for the day when everyone would carry their own damn coat (still wishing, by the way).
When I see parents now at the mall with their older teens, maybe shopping together, maybe splitting a cafe mocha at the Second Cup, there’s my wistful feeling coming up. I can only hope to have such a great relationship with my kids in the coming years. I want so much for us to be close as they grow older, to keep thinking of me as a tolerable, benevolent presence in their lives. (Fingers crossed!)
But this age, these in-between years, I think are perhaps the golden age of parenthood, and they go overlooked. Moms like me don’t get the soft looks in elevators, don’t get the yearning look from parents struggling with teens, don’t get the pats on the head from parents who have been there.
I think that’s maybe…wonderful. This is the age when everything clicks. Everything is as easy as it’s going to get. Everyone can put on their own shoes. Everyone can join in on a game of Sorry. Everyone can share a bowl of popcorn during Family Movie Night. Everyone can help carry picnic supplies from the van to the park.
It might not get the most attention. But it makes the best memories.