Lately, I am really missing my babies. I love my boys, but they are kids now, not babies or toddlers or even preschoolers. They are growing, school-aged boys. They are no longer my babies. They are kids.
I thought I would be the last person to ever lament the end of the baby days. When the boys were newborns, I couldn’t wait for them to be 3 or 4 months-old so they might sleep through the night. When they were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to be toddlers so I didn’t have to carry them all the time and they could start telling me what they needed. When they were toddlers, I couldn’t wait for them to go to school so I could have some time without anyone hanging on me.
My mother used to tell me not to wish the time away. My friend, Annette, used to tell me to enjoy it because it would be over before I knew it. “You don’t want them to grow up too quickly,” people would say. “Remember, little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” All I knew was that I wanted some sleep and some space. I was such a fool!
Everyone was right. I miss how cute the boys were, how everyday was a new discovery, how they adored me. I had no idea how much easier it was to have little ones. There are so many things that seemed like a hassle back then that I would love to be able to do with the kids now. Only, now, those things would probably be considered child abuse, for example:
Strapping them in. Sure, when the kids were little getting ready to go anywhere was a big task. I mean, I had to strap them into car seats. Going to the store meant getting out the shopping cart cover, strapping one into the cart seat while the other was hoisted into the actual cart or strapped into a germ infested little “car” at the front. Any other trip, involved hoisting the two seat stroller out of the trunk and then strapping the boys in one at a time. A royal pain in the po-po, as my mother-in-law would say.
Still, as much of a hassle as that was, it beats going anywhere with the boys now. Now, I have to wait for them to get into the car. Or, worse, they get in the car before I am ready to go. That usually results in someone poking, hitting, or sitting on someone else while they are waiting for me. Which then results in me screaming at the boys until Aaron tells me, “If you don’t wants to fight in the car, Mom, you shouldn’t keep us waiting.”
Then, of course, there is the window opening. And closing. And opening. And closing. Until, I finally lock the windows, which then starts the whining. Occasionally, there is even the door opening…while the car is moving…on the highway.
Once we get to the store, or wherever we are going, we start the negotiating. Where will we go first? How long will we stay there? Why do I get more time to buy food than they do to look at toys? On, and on, it goes through the entire time we are out. What used to be 20 minutes of extra time strapping my babies in and out of car seats, carts and strollers has turned into 40 minutes of looking at things we aren’t going to buy and hearing about how that wasn’t enough time or arguments about why I should have made a purchase.
There is no question in my mind that toting around toddlers was simpler than dragging around kids. I wonder if it is too late to try to get them back into a stroller?
Locking them down. Once you become a mother, taking a shower or going to the bathroom become major challenges. Someone always needs something from you but, eventually, you have to take care of yourself. When the boys were little, because somewhere between the time when I was a toddler and when I became a mother playpens seem to have been outlawed, I used a corral to keep them someplace safe while I showered. Sometimes, I would put it in one of their rooms or the my bedroom. Sometimes it was in the living room where they would be watching Barney. (Don’t judge me. I needed a shower. Really, I was starting to smell.)
I was able to relax knowing that the boys wouldn’t crawl, roll or cruise off to a part of the house where they might get hurt while I showered. As they got older, the corral went away and we used gates to block the stairs or the kitchen when I need to step away for a moment. The boys never seemed to mind and I felt better.
These days, when I take a shower or use the bathroom, I can hear the fighting start, or the jumping on the bed, or the throwing things down the stairs. Sometimes, if I forget to lock the door to the bedroom, the boys will take turns coming in and standing outside the bathroom door to report on each other. I spend most of my time in the shower trying to determine if that scream I just heard would require a trip to the emergency room or a loss of computer privileges or both.
I wish it was as easy to keep Nic and Aaron separated, and safe, as it was when they were little. I have thought about putting latches on their bedroom doors that lock from the outside or maybe investing in two large cages like a zoo would transport a tiger in. At least, then I could keep them separated so I could shower in peace. Somehow, I think child protective services would frown on either option.
Limiting their access to, well, everything. Before the boys went to school, it was easy to expose them only to what I wanted them to see or hear. We listened to music all the time…classical, Barney, Sesame Street, Hap Palmer, Mr. Ray, Steve Songs, Tom Chapin…the list goes on and on. What we never listened to was the radio, not even in the car.
The boys didn’t watch network TV. They never saw a TV commercial until they were in grade school. My boys had no idea who SpongeBob, Spiderman or the Mario Brothers even were.
We ate healthy meals and fruits and vegetables for snacks. Cookies, cake and ice cream were occasional treats but they never ate candy. They never complained. Meals were never a hassle. We enjoyed meals together. We sang and laughed.
All that has changed now that I have grade-schoolers. Whatever music they don’t hear at school, they hear about from their classmates. The first time Aaron regaled me with his best song and dance routine to “I’m Sexy and I Know It”, I decided I better start listening to Top 40 again. I was in for a surprise when I realized how relaxed the standards had become for music on the radio.
Of course, the TV isn’t much better. Even if the boys are pretty good about sticking to the shows we let them watch, the commercials for the ones we don’t still sneak in.
And, forget about food. My boys have become picky. For Aaron, the unhealthier something is the more he likes it. Little by little, I have broken down and given them the hot dogs, and fish sticks and boxed mac and cheese that I once prided myself on having never made for them. Oh, and candy? That ship sailed when they starting handing out Skittles as a reward in preschool.
I miss the days of sitting at that table while the boys ate happily and I would sing them silly songs. These days, they hum profanity laced ditties that degrade women while complaining about having chicken, again, and asking if they can go watch TV or use the computer. If only I could move us all into an underground bunker where we could be safe from all the things in the world that are making them grow up too fast.
Maybe, missing my babies is about more than missing the sweet little faces and warm cuddles. I think it is about realizing that I am nearing that point were I no longer have control. I can’t keep my babies safe anymore. I have to trust them and the world. It is the scariest thing I will ever have to do. So, for just a little while longer, I think I will stare at their photos and remember when the world was only me and them.