On a Tuesday afternoon, I strolled through our local park. I was alone, fresh from a nearby salon where I’d spent an hour and a half having my grays painted brown and my dead ends trimmed while sipping on herbal tea and paging through “People.” I’d stopped at a café and bought a delicious sandwich, which I planned to eat at home in uninterrupted peace while catching up on the DVR or watching The Food Network.
As I walked through the park, enjoying the sun on my face, I noticed all of the moms there -- the moms of littles with their giant strollers and giant diaper bags and giant sunglasses hiding tired eyes. I took in the toddlers trying to climb up the slide, the chubby baby legs pushed through the holes of the baby swings, the thin wisps of hair blowing in the breeze.
“Awwww,” I heard myself say as two three-year-olds passed by holding hands.
“So sweet!” I whispered to the mom with a sleeping baby in a pouch on her chest.
“I remember when my girls did that.”
One of the moms met my eyes with a look that’s best described as half-crazed, half-asleep. Her look said, Yes, I am aware somewhere deep down inside of me that my child is adorable, but right now I just want to get him home for a nap so that I can enjoy five seconds of silence.
That’s when I knew I’d become that mom. That mom with the salon blowout and the sandwich and the leisurely stroll who thinks that all of the kids are cute because she doesn’t have one nipping at her heels. The mom who says those words that all moms in the thick of it dread: It goes by so fast.
Don’t worry, I didn't actually say that. I won't. But I sort of wanted to.
I thought that “mom amnesia” only happened when the kids were really grown up — off to college or having families of their own — but it happens a lot sooner than that. It’s a good kind of amnesia, one where the fond memories shine bright and clear, and many of the bad ones fade into nothingness.
I’m not all the way there yet. The rose colored glasses are not perched firmly on my face, but they’re right there in my pocket. I’m teetering on the brink.
When I work hard at remembering, I can close my eyes and go back to my own days at the park, constantly in motion, yelling at the kids to go down the slide, changing diapers in the back of the van, and trying in vain to carry on a conversation with friends while we all darted about, holding up a finger and shouting, “Stop throwing sand!” “Give that back to her!” “Sorry, what were we talking about?” It was exhausting. I haven't completely forgotten that.
With my mom amnesia setting in, though, I mostly remember the good when I see those moms at the park. It’s not just the cuteness of the kids, it’s the camaraderie. Yes, your conversations are interrupted, you wish you had time to wash your hair, and you’d give anything to eat a real sandwich instead of sneaking bites of goldfish from your diaper bag. But there are bonds formed in those unshowered afternoons in parks and play-places, in the midst of those halted, interrupted conversations. You just don’t realize it until it’s behind you.
When I stop and think, I can recall the itchy monotony that filled my early years at home with the kids. The constant checking of clocks and watches, the feeling of never being able to lose track of time, for even a minute, lest the kids become over-hungry or over-tired or over-stimulated and all hell broke loose. It was a feeling of being constantly on edge, yet often bored stiff.
Then I click through my picture albums that show only the good: smiling faces, trips to the zoo, outings to the swimming pool, and homemade cupcakes. I watch videos of princess dress-up sessions and mispronounced words. And that starts to become my remembered reality.
I am forgetting that a trip to the pool with a two-year-old and a baby used to mean ripping my hair out over sunscreen application and packing snacks, and wrestling with swim diapers and floaties and sun hats…all for approximately 15 minutes of fun. And because I am forgetting, I will coo over your sweet one with the mermaid towel and wonder why you look so frazzled.
So to the moms with little ones, if I seem out of touch, I’m sorry. I want to remember, and I’m trying to relate, but the amnesia is creeping in fast. And it’s only going to get worse from here.
I’ll probably ask you if you’ve read any good books lately, forgetting that you barely had time to brush your teeth. I’ll ask you if you want to go to lunch or meet for happy hour, forgetting that you have naps to work around. I’ll try to have a meaningful conversation with you at the pool, forgetting that you’ve got to keep an eagle eye out for your toddler who’s absolutely fearless. When you ask me how I handled teething or table foods or learning to count, I will say that I can’t remember. I really can’t.
But the good news is that one day you'll have mom amnesia, too. You'll forget about that time that you sobbed in your car because your kids were both screaming in the backseat and you were starving and frazzled, and you passed by a restaurant patio full of ladies having lunch in the sun, and you couldn't fathom ever eating lunch on a patio with friends ever again. You'll forget what it feels like to have to ask someone if they need to go potty 6999 per day, or to grit your teeth when your kids won't fall asleep.
I know that those early years were rough for me in many ways, but the hows and whys are slowly fading away. Eventually I’ll forget completely. I’ll tell my girls that they never fought. I’ll say that I didn’t remember potty training being “that bad.” I’ll think it’s a great idea to take a 13-month-old on a six-hour plane ride. I'll take afternoon lunches in the sun for granted.
But I do promise never to say those words: Enjoy these days. It goes by so fast. Because no matter how much I forget the details, I won’t forget that it was really hard. I also won’t tell you how tired I still am, almost 10 years later. Thank God for giant sunglasses.