I first noticed it during the Christmas season. There I was wandering the crowded aisles of Toys -R-Us watching the frantic parents fill their carriages with Legos and remote controlled cars and Brio trains and dolls, when it dawned on me: I don’t have have babies anymore. To be honest, I had no business being in Toys-R-Us at all. Nothing my kids had asked for was even at that store, I needed to be in the Apple store and Abercrombie and Fitch. I walked around throwing random video games or an occasional classic board game into my painfully empty carriage and I missed those frantic days of trying to find the Pirate Lego Ship or the last Razor Scooter that they my children just HAD to have.
It happened again at Easter. For the past 9 years or so, I have been holding an Easter vigil with my next door neighbor, Leslie. Once the kiddies are tucked into their warm beds, we head out, armed with enough bags of flour to run a small bakery, our sifters, and our pre-cut bunny foot stencils which we have made from poster board. Like thieves in the night we would drive around town and make giant Easter Bunny footprints leading up to and out of the houses where we know little Easter-Bunny-believing children lay sleeping. We are out for hours. One year I was leaving for South Carolina at 4 am and we didn’t get home until close to 3:00. Mark did most of the driving that year, while I slept. Just like the Postman we have battled all kinds of weather; snow, rain, sleet, and even the occasional warm front. It has become such a tradition that some parents have taken to leaving us beer or wine–sometimes even equipped with bottle opener and wine glasses. Last year I was too sick from the chemo and this year unfortunately I had to work, so Leslie recruited her daughter to go with her.
Usually on Easter morning, the first thing my kids do, even before searching for their baskets, is to run to their windows to see the bunny prints. This year they didn’t. Obviously my 15 year old and to some extent my 12 year old are beyond the age of believing, but my 9 year old daughter? I thought for sure she would have still looked for the magical prints. She barely glanced out my bedroom window and when I reminded her, she said, “oh ya” in a painfully bored tone. My suspicions of her dis-belief came a little later when I asked her to show me what the Easter Bunny had brought her and she turned and looked at me with that “Oh MY GAWD,” eyeroll and said ” Mom, you KNOW what the Easter Bunny brought me because you got…..” and then she trailed off, maybe when she saw the look of horror on my face.
I realize that a 10 foot Bunny is really pushing the belief-envelop these days. The kids today are way too smart and exposed to far too much Reality in TV, Movies, and Video Games to hold onto to something as childish as a basket-wielding rodent, but it does make me very sad that that portion of our lives is over. The Easter Bunny along with Santa, the Tooth-Fairy, and to a small extent miracles and magic in general have been replaced by cynicism in my little brood. I will say it again:I don’t have any babies anymore.
It is of course a rite of passage. Our babies grow to toddlers; toddlers to teenagers and beyond and there is not much we can do to stop that. But I can’t help thinking that I have lived the past 15 years out of an emotional suitcase; always ready to move on to the next place, the next milestone. As soon as they could sit up I waited for them to walk. As soon as they could talk I waited for them to read. At each stop I never fully unpacked my clothes and enjoyed my surroundings. I am sure this happens to all Mothers at some point but I can’t help believing that because I moved every 6 months while I was growing up, that I have somehow learned how not to linger over things. This is a good attribute when you are forced to leave behind the ones you love but when it spills over to the times in your life when you should be paying attention, lingering over the moment and enjoying the ride — it can force you to miss a lot.
I used to see elderly woman in the grocery store who would stop me with my infant, smile and say,”oh enjoy them while they are little.” I would smile at them, thinking, ‘yah right, enjoy them, I haven’t slept in months or taken a shower in 4 days….’ I couldn’t wait for them to grow up so I could have my peace and quiet. Now I see babies every where I go, in strollers, at Church, at the store. I have become like the old ladies; I smile at them, I get all teary and I tell them to enjoy them now…I am not sure that they listen, but it makes me feel better to say it out loud.
These days I have that peace and quiet that I longed for so desperately as a new mother. I have full days to myself where I can run, go to the gym, shower, read a book, anything really. I have to say, though, on many days when the kids are off doing their own thing and Mark is a work, it is far too quiet around my house.