Now I understand why grandparents always look so relaxed.
After a day of properly spoiling their adorable offspring, they get to go home -- a home that is (hopefully) devoid of sticky counters, plastic cups and Elmo in any form.
Until you're a parent, you have no idea the actual role you'll be playing in your child's life. The non-parent concept of parenthood is sketchy -- it's usually a strictly AS SEEN ON TV version: Perky mothers with their stylish cargo pants and sweater sets, a baby in one hand, a Swiffer in the other, all easily balanced while teaching a preschooler French and keeping an eye on the filet mignon cooking itself on the stove. Actually, I bet this is mostly -- aside from the filet and the French -- a pretty accurate accounting of most mothers' multitasking abilities. It's the ease that's fictional. And the perkiness. At least it is for me.
I know, I know: Nobody forced motherhood upon me and I adore it, I value my children above all. But now that they are four and seven and nap time is a thing of the past, my "days off" with my children are more rigorous than those fitness boot camps I fear. No, I don't drag my kids to eight different sports activities or lessons. We just hang out, really, but activities with the elementary school set are like houseguests -- they get old quick. Therefore, we keep it moving. We play Legos, we go swimming, we go to the park, we draw, we make up stories, we read other people's stories, we watch public television, we play with the neighbors.
Then we eat lunch. Whew.
I know I must simply, by nature, be the laziest girl around, but every now and then I take out a memory of my old life on a Sunday afternoon and savor it like good chocolate. Maybe I would have slept until 9 or 10, met friends for breakfast, read a book, took a nap, maybe seen a matinee. And though I loved having ice cream on the sidewalk outside the Rite-Aid with my kids today, I have to admit, there are times I wish I could just stay under the covers for a day with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a season of Sex in the City.
How awful, right? Because you know before I even got to the part where Big dumps Carrie (again!), I'd be missing my littles. And that's the rub. Once you give birth to these life changers, you can miss your old life all you want, but you can't go back to it -- not without longing for their giggles and their fat little tummies and their reaching for you for just one more hug and kiss.
Maybe it's just like I tell my forever pining four-year-old, always wishing for something beyond his reach: "Be happy with what you have," I say, reproachingly as he points toward another toy, another superhero.
And I am happy, beyond happy actually. Just a bit weary. Nothing a night of pasta and Candyland can't fix, right?
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