A few weeks ago, I had some time to kill. One teen son was at home, and the other was at an event to which he needed a ride. (I’m about a year shy of retiring as the Mom Taxi, so these periods of killing time will soon be over.)
Since there’s no better place to kill time than at Target, I found a good parking spot and went in. I visited all the usual hot spots — the clearance clothing racks, the make-up aisles, the marked-down end-caps in the grocery section. I browsed until I got bored. With ten more minutes to fill, I wandered into the baby section.
On any given day, you could ask me if I wanted time to slow down, if I was one of those moms who wanted her kids to STOP GROWING, and I would tell you, with total confidence, “Nah.”
For years I’ve been that mom who’s totally comfortable living in the current stage. I’ve stayed home with them from the start, homeschooling them even. We’re together all the time. We have most of our meals together and I see them for hours all day, every day. All the time. I’ve missed nothing. I can’t even think of something I’ve missed. From walking, potty training, and learning how to read, to puberty, girl problems, and learning how to drive, I’ve walked every inch of that road alongside both of my boys.
And yet, there I was in the baby section, perusing the light blue onesies, touching the footie pajamas covered with tiny airplanes, and suddenly I was overcome. I choked up.
I miss this, I thought. I miss this terribly.
A deep well in my chest opened and I started to cry. Memories of my boys’ infancy and toddlerhood flooded to mind. Suddenly, we’re watching Thomas the Tank Engine and building new track together on the coffee table. Then I’m buying a new batch of cloth diapers for my newborn and telling my oldest what a good big brother he’s going to be. Now, I’m making baby food in the CrockPot and my husband is changing the crib into a toddler bed. It’s all so clear in my mind as if it just happened. This must be what it’s like to time travel.
I wiped my eyes and whipped out my phone to text my sister: “Was killing time in Target and took a slow walk through the baby stuff. Totally cried. I miss it.”
She replied: “Hang in there, sister. Persevere!”
Because she knows. Her oldest just graduated high school and starts college in a week. Her youngest just got his learner’s permit. She knows how this feels, to be trucking along in this beautiful life and realize suddenly that your children are actually young men and that this is the hardest season of parenting ever. Never mind changing the crib into a toddler bed. Forget those trains and tracks scattered around the living room. We’re a hop, skip, and a jump away from applying to colleges, packing suitcases, and downsizing.
I stuffed my phone back in my purse and headed to the car, wiping my face and nursing my emotional whiplash. How could I be so careless? How could Target be so cruel? I was fine, and then I wasn’t. I was caught off guard, ill-prepared, unaware of how cute onesies would shake my confidence. Parents of teens, hear me now: Enter the baby section at your own risk.
With time and space, I shook the sad feeling and returned to where I was 30 minutes prior. I remembered that I’m happy to be in this space, that I’m fine to keep going, and that I don’t want time to slow down. We are exactly where we need to be.