Earlier this week, my husband and I were taking a mental checkout break to delve into the world of Stranger Things 2. I was engrossed in Hawkins, Indiana world, when I realized I was 2.5 episodes deep and hadn’t heard from either child of mine. Were they still in the house? I called out to them to discover they were going between playing a new video game together and building a racetrack. “Cool,” I thought as I settled back into the show.
And then it hit me: I’m out of The Fog. Just like that, my days of parenting young babies and toddlers were over. I made it through.
Speak to any new parent, and they will tell you about The Fog. It hits you just as the intoxicating mix of oxytocin is starting to wear down and you find yourself with a newborn you need to take care of ALL OF THE TIME. There’s always something that baby needs, and because you’re new to this, every cry sends shudders of panic down your spine. You rush out of the shower, suds still in your hair, to make sure the crying baby is ok. If you’re like I was, you also rush out if you think the baby has been quiet for too long. You’re exhausted, you’re emotionally drained and elated at the same time, and you’re a mess. You forget your friends’ faces. Your vacation becomes a bathroom break to yourself.
Yes, these days are long, sometimes lonely, and hard.
Like everything with childhood though, they don’t last forever. Soon you find yourself watching your toddler grow into a preschooler (or even your infant grow into a toddler), and you find yourself missing those hectic days. Babies just smell so amazingly new. Is there anything better than a newborn curled up under your chin? So you do it again. And maybe even again. And you stay in The Fog as the years go by around you so quickly, you swear someone is speeding them up.
And just like that, one day you realize it’s over. You’re like this Rip Van Winkle who suddenly woke back up into the world again. You can go out with your friends again (provided they still remember you!). You and your partner can just hang out together. You can easily walk into a store without maneuvering a stroller. Your breasts aren’t leaking. You can enjoy a workout that doesn’t involve babywearing. You have your sex drive back. You no longer need to worry about crafty toddlers flushing toys down the toilet or trying to eat a Lego. You’re down with potty-training (can I get an amen here?). Of course, this time brings its own set of challenges. Where it was once Mommy and Me classes, it’s now sporting events, after-school clubs, and larger (and far more expensive) activities.
But you are now in the Golden Days of Childhood. These are the days they make movies about. The Goonies days, The Sandlot days. These are the DAYS! Relish every second of them!
I’m so grateful for these beautiful moments. This is what I imagined parenthood to be like. My children still like me and still want to hang out with me, but they don’t need me every moment of the day. We just got back from a trip to Universal Studios and Disneyland, and both boys were old enough and tall enough to ride nearly all the rides. I stared at the stroller parking sections and felt like Jennifer Lawrence in The Mockingjay putting my arm up in solidarity with these mother warriors trying to wrangle toddlers in the amusement park. I’ve been there, friends. But most importantly for me, my husband and I can just take a second to enjoy this seemingly perfect moment in life. I feel truly giddy with joy as I watch my boys continue to grow into the incredible people they are meant to be. And I can finally sit back and watch it.
And watch Stranger Things 2. Go figure.
I know, especially from mothers dealing with pre-teens and teens and the stories of my own awesome teenage years, that harder days are coming. Teenagers bring a different type of parental angst. Once again you worry about keeping them alive — and all sorts of other fun things.
But for this shining moment in time, I’m not thinking about that. I’m focusing on the Golden Days, because I know they too are fleeting. I wish I could stop that damn clock, but it’s pointless. But I can take this time to be present, and maybe that will slow it down just a bit. One can hope, right?