A brief pause while I reflect on something serious . . .
This past week, my daughter turned four. This seems ordinary in and of itself, but it struck me out of the blue what this actually means. She's the youngest of my children and her leaving behind the three-and-under stage is so significant that I can't quite get my head around it.
I am no longer that woman.
I see that woman at the grocery store and at the gym and at the park and at the mall and I recognize her the way you recognize a picture of yourself from your old high school yearbook—you can't quite believe that it used to be you.
But it did use to be me pushing the shopping cart with the baby carrier sitting so precariously atop it (Am I the only one who feared it would topple?), and then with the next baby in the snuggie and the toddler in the shopping cart, me feeding him gummies, praying that they would last until my shopping was complete, and then, finally, with the next baby in the snuggie and the two toddlers fighting over the gummies in the gigantic shopping cart that was shaped like a fire truck and impossible to navigate through the narrow aisles.
That used to be me . . . but, suddenly and strangely, not anymore.
While it's happening, it seems like it will never end. You know somewhere in your head that one day you will not consider sleeping two hours in a row a triumph. You know that one day you won't freak out because you just used the last diaper. You know that one day you won't watch with fearful anticipation as your toddler eats one . . . now two . . . now three bites of vegetables, thank God. You know that one day you won't spend each evening draped over a bathtub, trying to keep shampoo out of sensitive eyes. You know that one day this will all be a distant memory. Good grief, everyone tells you that it goes by too quick—everyone tells you this, but you never quite believe them . . . until it actually does go by too quick.
I don't exactly miss it.
I rather like the fact that I can go to a store without having to first pack a suitcase. I like the fact that I can tell my kids jokes that they get and they can tell me jokes that make no sense whatsoever. I like the fact that they can show kindness and compassion and empathy. I like the fact that I can outright refuse to get out of bed before nine o'clock on a Sunday.
But still . . . it makes me a little uneasy. It's like my daughter turning four is a big flashing light telling me not only that my children's toddler days are over, but also that my youth is over. Of course I knew this in theory. I am thirty-three and have been married for ten years and though I can occasionally plaster on enough make-up to convince a nervous and near-sighted waiter to card me, I don't actually resemble someone who could be mistaken for twenty. The lines are invisible only if I keep my face completely neutral and I consistently grab my hip when standing after sitting for too long.
This is it, this is adulthood . . . and it scares me. As long as I had young children, I felt like adulthood was some far off land that I hoped I wouldn't have to visit . . . ever. But I'm running out of excuses. I'm running out of time. I hear myself saying things like, "Let's get this mess cleaned up," and "Don't use that tone with me, I am your mother," and "I will turn this car around if you don't calm down back there." These sound suspiciously like things an adult would say.
So this is the shape that my life has taken. I happen to be one of the most blessed people on the planet, but still it gives my restless mind pause. This is my life. This is what I have built.
Will it change? No doubt.
Will it be better? Sure it will.
Will it be worse? Sure it will.
Will it all be okay? Who knows?
I'm too old to consult the magic eight ball anymore.