I was walking through Walmart earlier today and it happened. Out of nowhere that unmistakeable lump showed itself in my throat and then the tears. The tears began to fill my eyes. Oh no!
I was alone. I was there to pick up a couple of items while my daughter was having her flute lesson in the neighborhood nearby. Since I had an hour to fill, I found myself wandering around the aisles a bit. I found the cat litter that I needed, and browsed the assortment of products to help with middle-aged foot problems. You know, the corn cushions and callous removers and ingrown toenail helpers.
Somehow I found myself passing by the toy section. Row after row was filled with the bright colored objects. Shiny things and sparkly things. Fluffy things and noisy things. All the things for children to play pretend. And then there was the aisle display that I nearly tripped over with my usual clumsiness. There were brightly colored plush creatures covered in soft fluffy loops of furry goodness. Each of them were in their own box. Perfectly sitting inside, waiting for their child to select them.
In that simultaneous moment that I saw those colorful creatures is when it happened. Those tears! Feeling embarrassed, I quickly contained those tears from falling down my face, though there was nothing I could do to hide the redness that I know covered my nose. In that moment, it happened to me too. That moment I’ve heard other moms talk about so much.
I missed when my kids were little.
That’s them in this photo above. About 15 years ago.
I couldn’t believe it. It happened to me too. Was it my hormones? That pesky peri-menopause? Whatever it was, it was real. I watched another mom nearby wrangle her three young children while they chose a bed for their dog. Two appeared to be school aged, but the one in her grocery cart was younger. The mom looked tired, but beautiful still. The children were happy. Suddenly I found myself reminiscing about when I was that young mom with my two children in tow.
This random mood swing though. They usually happen at home, but apparently, the Mood Swing Fairy does not discriminate time or location. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, moms, be forewarned.
You see, all of this time, I have been telling people that I don’t miss the early years. But instead, my excitement has been growing these days when I daydream about the soon-to-be empty nest. I’ve been the tough mom. The “this won’t happen to me mom.” This was not supposed to happen to me. No way, not me.
But today was different. Today, I pictured myself wandering the toy aisles with my son to pick out a new Star Wars Action Figure to add to his collection as a reward for a good report card. I saw myself choosing art supplies and plastic dress up princess shoes with my daughter. I remembered choosing an inflatable swimming pool to use in the back yard one summer when school was out. I could hear them asking if they could have a snack from the selection at the cash register. Or perhaps an Icee on the way out of the store.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am still the anxiety ridden mom who does not wish to go back. I don’t miss changing diapers or giving baths. I have no desire to relive the frequent visits to the pediatrician, the endless weekend birthday parties or the uninvited stomach viruses that often appeared in the middle of the night. I don’t really miss much of those days at all and I still choose mothering older children over the days with the littles.
What I realized that I do miss is the simplicity. The days when the most important thing to them was what we would play on Saturday afternoon or which movie to watch during the camp outs they would have in the playroom every weekend. The ones when they slept on a pallet made of quilts on the floor and ate popcorn and drank the homemade milkshakes that I made without using a blender.
I miss when they asked me to read them a story. Even if it was the same one that I had read to them 152 times before. And when they didn’t have anything to worry about yet from the adult world. I miss when mom was the hero. And when they had that look in their bright eyes at bedtime that needed no words at all.
It’s true what they all say, that you miss this stuff one day. It’s true that I spent too much time worrying over things that I should have enjoyed more. And if no one has told you this, you’ll get a weird feeling in the pit of your soul when you realize that your chapters of motherhood are nearing their end. I know that mothers are mothers forever. But at some point, you realize that you won’t always be the most important person in their lives.
I did eventually pull it together to finish my shopping. And manage to get out of the store without anyone seeing red-nosed me. I picked up my daughter from her lesson like any other ordinary lesson day. But I was still thinking about this. This moment that I did not expect to happen to me.
Perhaps this has all been brought on my youngest turning 17 recently. Or the damned hormones. The realization that there is only one more year before she can say she is an adult. Before she can take ownership of her life choices. Or decide whether or not to heed my advice. And that I am really going to miss her one day soon.
I don’t think about this everyday. In fact, I’m mostly excited about this stage of life. Like all of us moms, I will continue to worry about them. I will be annoyed with them when they ignore my advice or make a choice that might not be the best one. But they are young. And the whole world is theirs to conquer.
So what I think is really happening is that, the familiar is fading away. And I’m afraid of what is changing. So much of motherhood is filled with changes that happen so fast we don’t even notice them happening. But something about this change is different. It’s more.
I now know that none of us are in this alone. It’s normal and okay for us to cry about it sometimes. But moms, we need to sit back and congratulate ourselves when we see our kids spread their wings and fly.
So there. I admit it. I, too, miss when my children were little. But I can’t wait to see what happens next.