Julie Forbes is contributing today with a little insight on what “that look” means…
It was 5:15am. The kids had been up for over an hour. “Shhhh! Some people are lucky enough to still be asleep,” I hissed, as we walked down the hotel hallway.
We were on a
vacation trip to Hawaii. The kids must not have received the memo that the time change meant they could sleep in. They were still on West Coast time. All three of them woke up before 4am, and the baby had woke me up twice during the night to nurse.
I was walking around the hotel so that my husband could sleep in because 1) I was feeling generous that day, and 2) I know that he’s even crabbier than I am when he’s tired.
We were in Hawaii for my husband’s conference.
He spent much of the day at the meeting, so I had all of the duties of ‘mom’ transferred to a smaller space, with less sleep and more sand. Everybody needed me at every second. Everybody wanted me at every second. I was on vacation in Hawaii, and I should’ve seen it as a dream come true, but instead I was tired and angry.
I was trying to corral the kids to the hotel coffee shop, passing the bleary-eyed hotel workers, mad about life. We finally made it to the coffee counter, only to find a sign that said, “Open at 6am.” No coffee, no sleep, and nothing to do to entertain 3 little kids because the sun wasn’t even up yet, when a woman passed me with the look. You know the one. I had seen it many times on our trip.
We were in Hawaii after Labor Day, so the majority of people there were people who didn’t have kids in school. People my parents’ age, in their 50s and 60s, and every single one of them kept giving me “the look.” It’s that look when people whose kids have grown, see your family with little kids, and all of the sudden a glaze sweeps over their eyes. They start daydreaming, with rose-colored glasses, about their days with their little kids. They look peaceful, they smile at you, and they want to say, “Enjoy every second. It goes so quickly.”
But, they don’t have to say it…the look on their face says it all. It’s a look that usually makes my eyes roll, but on that morning, it terrified me. It terrified me because I was thinking, “If they’re looking back at this age so longingly, what the hell does the future hold? What could be so terrible, that it makes these exhausting, tiring, needy days so wonderful? If this is the best that it ever gets, am I prepared to handle the future?” I was too tired to even think about it.
Soon after we returned home, my husband ran into a former boss whose oldest son is in his teens. When my husband asked him how his son was doing, he sighed, and said, “The age of innocence is over.” He didn’t elaborate, but it was enough to get me thinking, “Is his son not trying in school? Is he being a hormonal jerk? Is he drinking? Is it worse?”
It made me think of a phrase my good friend’s mom told me, Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.
Sure, my 7 month old won’t take a bottle, my 2.5 year old thinks biting is an appropriate solution to any problem and my 4.5 year old can’t hold a pencil the correct way to save his life. Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.
It all seems to pale in comparison to kids who don’t want anything to do with you. Staying up all night with an infant seems like nothing compared to staying up all night wondering if your child is drinking and driving. A toddler who won’t eat her vegetables is nowhere near as concerning as a teen struggling with an eating disorder. Scraped knees on bikes don’t hold a candle to the first time you get a phone call telling you that your child has been in a car accident.
I finally realized what that “look” meant. While the days are long, they’re filled with hugs, and I love yous, sloppy kisses and moments that you never want to end. They’re filled with giggling, growing and love. They’re filled with little problems that you find solutions for. Days of holding hands, nursing babies, and laying in bed for ‘just one more minute.’ Everyone wants you at every second. Everyone needs you at every second. And I’m going to do my best to enjoy this age of innocence for every (long) waking hour it entails.
This is what I’ll remember of our Hawaii vacation when I’m 60, giving some new mom “the look.”