We were living in a trendy Suburb west of Boston, filled with large houses (we rented), manicured lawns (tended to by landscaping crews) and the Moms were Ladies Who Lunched or had Big Corporate Jobs. It was a great place to live if you worked in the city or had infinite discretionary income: close to public transportation and walking distance to several cool pubs and restaurants.
It was not so great if you were home full-time with an infant.
At first I would go to the playground, excited to meet other Moms. I was taken aback by all the beautiful, young women there - their long ponytails shining and their bodies showing no signs of childbirth. It took me a while to realize these were the Nannies. No Moms in sight.
I couldn't find any Mommy and Me clubs or community playgroups, so to avoid going stir crazy I would take Greta to the grocery store. Like, every day.
I loved how people would fawn over her; oh, she's ADORABLE, how old is she? Look at her smile! She's such a doll! I would push her along, walking the aisles, occasionally tossing an item or two into the cart to keep up appearances, and wait for someone to exclaim over her cuteness. I was struggling as a new Mom; I felt lost, inadequate and scared a lot of the time. At the store, though, I soaked in the validation of these complete strangers, and felt awash in maternal pride.
This memory came roaring back to me last weekend, as I stood on the sidelines of the soccer field and watched Greta run past me, long brown hair streaming behind her, a huge grin on her face.
She ran with coltish grace, her arms and legs pumping madly, propelling herself forward at a seemingly impossible speed.
She effortlessly ran with the ball, no defenders in sight, until the only thing between her and a goal was the opposing team's goalie. Pause. Shoot. SCORE.
I leapt into the air. "YAY, GRETA!!" I yelled, unable to stop myself, awash in maternal pride. She shot me a sheepish smile, happiness beaming from her eyes.
And I felt it - that WHOOSH of time flying past. That long legged, graceful beauty on the field was my little bald baby who used to love to flash her four tiny teeth to strangers in the store.
It will happen again, I thought. Another WHOOSH and she'll be pulling down the driveway without me in the car, or a boy will be slipping a corsage onto her wrist.
"When you're a parent, the days are long and the years are short," my friend Karin used to say as we huddled together for marathon playdates, babies tugging at our shirts and toddlers teetering around at our feet. I would nod when she said this, but the long days of tending to babies and toddlers held me firmly in their grip. I couldn't wrench myself into the moment, savor it, treasure it, because I felt weary right down to my core.
Last Monday Greta wasn't feeling well and she stayed home from school. Finn was at preschool, and so just Greta and I went to the store to pick up a few household items. As we waited in the checkout line, Greta quietly standing by my side, I glanced at the woman behind me. She had an infant in the cart who was pulling at her hair, giggling, and a toddler lurching away from her, trying to pull the candy off the shelves. She looked pale, tired and bored, and was snapping at her oldest while shooing her baby's hand away with a sigh.
"How old is your baby?" I asked her.
"Eight months," she said, disentangling her hair from a little fist. "She still isn't sleeping through the night, and he's potty training," she said, almost apologetically. "It's been a long day."
I gave her a smile and said, "Yes, I remember those days. They're tough."
But I wanted to lean over and whisper into her ear: WHOOSH.