I’ve begun to enjoy being around small children again.
When ours were little, I got kind of…preoccupied?...with caring for them. I stopped smiling at babies in line at the grocery store—and, not coincidentally, stopped getting, “Are you a kidnapper?” looks from mothers.
Now I enjoy their adorable little antics again. I love the fun faces they make as their mental wheels turn. I love the excitable little hands. I love the toddler pronunciations and examples of toddler logic. And I even love the tantrums. In restaurants, malls, parks, and stores, the tantrums provoke a new refrain in me.
That’s not my kid.
It was once my kid, no doubt. You name it and my kids have done it, but now, it’s not my child screaming or grabbing or dragging feet. It’s not my kid who just can’t understand the intricacies of adult time management. It’s not my kid whose arched back makes an irresistible force meeting the immobile object of the car seat.
That’s not my kid.
Last week, we ate out at a favorite restaurant. A couple with a four-month-old sat in the booth beside us. I enjoyed seeing the cute little baby face resting on dad’s shoulder and peeking into our booth, but honestly didn’t notice a thing wrong. At least, not until I saw mom and baby vanish out the front door as the wait staff took two steaming plates of food right back to the kitchen to be boxed and dad drained half his wine in one swallow.
Then I recognized the unmistakable signs of a night out that didn’t make it. Big. A. and I shared a look.
That’s not our kid.
Yes, I miss things about being mother to babies and toddlers, but I also rejoice in the people they’re becoming. And I rejoice in the person I’m becoming. Once again an individual, not a mother-baby dyad, I rejoice in my physical and mental autonomy. I rejoice that my delight in children can be unalloyed by the sheer daily grind of raising them. I rejoice in this growth.
And if it is your kid dragging you through the trenches out there, know that, on the other side, waits profound appreciation and peace. You will all be just fine in a few years. The other parents you feel looking at you and your kid? They’re wishing you well and reminding themselves how quickly it all goes by.
They’re saying, “Not too long ago, that was my kid.”