My days with my son pile up like the leaves in the park down the street, the ones that never get raked up. Days filled with playdates and uneaten bananas, too much laundry, too many dishes, books on tape I try to listen to as I play with him on the floor, and a child who likes nothing more than to be a fireman, a policeman, an astronaut, or to throw all the pillows and blankets off my bed and pretend to swim in the “ocean.”
The days pile up like old sweaters, like uneaten food of all kinds, like the pages of my unfinished novel, like too many toys, like the books we’ve had to box up to make room for the too-many-toys. Or perhaps the days just pile up like days.
My baby is three years and two months old. My old life is so far away. I stayed home full-time for the first year and a half. Now he’s in daycare half the time, while I try to be a freelance writer. My husband works full-time, and he’s awesome when he’s home in the evenings and on the weekends. A really good dad. But during those weekdays – it’s just me and my boy. Even with playdates and library story times, the week is a lonely time for me.
Sometimes I daydream about working in an office full-time. Dressing business casual. Styling my hair, and maybe even putting on makeup. Taking lunch breaks with coworkers, going down the street to Chipotle or that little sushi restaurant we all like.
There are bad days – days filled with indecision and boredom and self-judgment. Days when I feel like a horrible mom. Days when my innate selfishness clashes with the selflessness needed to be a good mom. Days when I am doing nothing wrong yet still feel like a failure. Or days when I’m just bored, when I take him to the playground but have no interest in being at the playground because it seems like I’ve been to the playground 10,000 times. There are days when we eat Popeye’s for dinner (even though we did the same thing the day before) because I haven’t gone grocery shopping and I just really, really like Popeye’s fried chicken.
Then there are good days. Days filled with play dough, and us watching for buses from the window, and reading about Santa when it is not Christmas, and getting floored when he shows me that he can blow bubbles almost as well as I can. There are trips to museums and the zoo and the farm where I used to work. There are lazy hikes in the woods. There are kisses given without me asking for them, and new words spoken, and laughs laughed, and squeals squealed. There is jumping on the bed. And there is my boy on the jungle gym, looking so happy, on top of the world. And there he is in front of the Space Shuttle at the air and space museum, oggling at this craft that’s actually flown in space. And there he is with a friend, holding the little girl’s hand on the way back from the park, or negotiating who will wear the fireman helmet.
I think the best thing about being a mom is getting to be so close to wonder and excitement, to breathless anticipation, to laughter in its purest form. Everything is still new for him. Everything is magical and a little strange. Sometimes I laugh just because he is laughing, because whatever he’s laughing about isn’t funny or even interesting, and so it’s ridiculous to get excited about, and that in itself is funny. What am I to do but let the days pile up like days? Let my hair go un-styled, my clothes go casual casual, my books stay in storage, and my lunch get cold as I try to make him eat his.
It seems like these days will last forever, but just like those leaves in the park, I know that these days are fleeting. Soon, he will be three and a half, and then four, and then five, and well, you know how counting works. I can’t imagine what he’ll be like at ten or sixteen. I can’t imagine what he’ll be like as an adult. But those days are coming. I can already feel his toddler years coming to an end. He talks about wanting to go to school, and when he talks it is in full sentences. He looks nothing like a baby, or even a toddler. My child is now a kid, a young kid but a kid nonetheless. And so as these days pile up, I feel like I need to hang onto them, like I need to remember every detail, like if I hold tightly enough I can keep his young self vibrant in my mind. Until I had him, I didn’t believe all those women when they talked about how quickly the early years of their children’s lives passed. But now – I am keenly aware of the passage time. And time keeps marching on.
So when he runs to me, I open my arms wide and envelope him, telling myself to remember this moment, this feeling. To remember the smell of sunlight in his hair.
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