I was playing at the playground yesterday with my son, who is currently two years and nine months old. I was playing at a playground where I used to take my middle son, now five. I was looking at my little one – in my middle son’s old clothes – standing in the exact place where my middle son stood three years ago and thinking how time flies.
Children grow up quickly. This is not breaking news. They also drive us nuts. Equally not breaking news. But sometimes the latter clouds the enjoyment of the former. I was thinking about this after my friend sent me a post from actor and director Mark Duplass about keeping your kids’ annoying AF behavior in perspective. For example (and this may or may not have been happening to spark the sending of said text): when your two year old busts into the bathroom to ask you why you bought a new toaster and then hands you a snow sled. Do you laugh or scream? I believe Duplass’s point is just to remember in that moment – you’ll look back at these things “with wonder” in 2040.
Funny enough, I often think about this when I need to breathe through whatever chaos is going on in my house. In other words – every day. I tell myself they’ll all be out of the house one day and I’ll be the lady telling new moms in stores to enjoy them when they’re little.
Standing there in the park – in that longitudinal spot (and if you know me you know that I love longitudinal studies) – I couldn’t help but think about this concept.
I have three small kids. I was thinking while looking at #3 what my life was like when I just had #1 and she was this age. She is now nine years old. Having a nine-year-old and a two-year-old is a bit of a reminder of this every day. I think how she used to exist solely on my milk and now she microwaves herself oatmeal every morning.
I do often look at #1 and think what it was like having only a two-year-old. Besides having patients, less wrinkles, and energy, we lived in an urban vs. suburban setting in a one-bedroom apartment vs. a house.
My days consisted of taking her to the park by the subway and dressing her in girly, frilly, dressy things including her prized pink ballet attire (because as girl moms that’s what we do). We used to spend our days us against the world with Manhattan at our fingertips. No stroller – just a backpack, the MTA and endless opportunities.
Now she gets on a bus, goes to school, comes home, does her homework herself, showers herself, makes lunch, and then sits and reads a book until I get the boys to bed and we can hang out together. I feel like I don’t get to see her and don’t get to talk to her despite spending all night together.
Next, we have #2, who is five and in kindergarten. I write proverbial sonnets to him at night apologizing for treating him as the stereotypical “middle kid”. When he was #3’s age, I already had his little brother. We lived in the suburbs and I was just a super stressed mom of three trying to do everything I could to stay sane. So basically, every day was just about survival when he was this age. He is so sweet and delicious and somehow has also learned how to get on the same bus, come home, do his homework, play with Legos, shower and wait for me to pay attention to him at bedtime.
Back to #3. He is a fantastic two-year-old – happy and cute as can be – except for when he’s moaning in my face for hours, fighting his nap, waking up at night, and being insane. But also, sometimes he just hugs me and tells me he loves me. Very often when I change his diaper and look at this little tush I think about the other little tushies I used to change who now go to the bathroom themselves. Perspective.
I like to think about this stuff sometimes because it helps get me through the insanity that is three kids. Perspective. “The days are long, but the years are short”. I also often think of the scene in “Parenthood” when Steve Martin’s head spins out as he reflects on his Grandma’s line about life being like a roller coaster. He had three kids. Yep. Every day. Perspective.
This morning I was telling my dad how I’m taking my kids to Sesame Street Live! on Sunday. He said he vividly remembers taking ME – close to four decades ago – and how excited I was to meet Big Bird. Or in other words – Turn, Turn, Turn.
I try to remember this – but I don’t. Tomorrow I will try harder. Next time they’re going nuts because they need me to get them water, make dinner, check their homework, find their shoes, find the other mitten, need help closing a Ziploc bag, need a rubber band, still can’t find their shoes, need a pencil sharpened, ask for Parmesan cheese, ask again because I can’t do it while I’m doing 19 other things, don’t like their dinner after I made exactly what they asked for, can’t find the soap (usually in front of them) in the bath, can’t reach the towel on a height appropriate hook, or accidentally spill the drink I literally just handed them because I was getting the freaking Parmesan cheese – that these moments are fleeting and not a big deal. Except Parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is a really big deal. Pretty much every day I feel like Goldie Hawn in Overboard. There are days when my husband comes home and when he asks about my day I just say “buh-buh-buh buh buh”.
So why did I title this Our Town, Act 3? Because I also think about that a lot. I think about how poor dead Emily is granted the best gift – to go back to one day in her life and relive it. To go back to “the good old days” once more. The advice she’s given is to pick a simple day because it’s too hard to watch anything else. I think of this in those perfect moments when I’m snuggling in my bed filled with the giggling people I made in my belly and everyone is just happy, content and telling each other they love them. I want to bottle that and have that be the moment I come back to one day if given then same gift. Shit, now I’m crying. I blame Mark Duplass. But really – it’s probably Parmesan cheese’s fault. I really hate you Parmesan cheese.