It’s official. I’ve reached the phase of motherhood that I’ve been counting down the minutes to, but also (according to my subconscious mind) completely dreading. The Missing It Phase. When you have a baby, and then a toddler, it seems like everyone and their mother just keeps telling you: “you’re gonna miss this.” And it’s always at the worst possible moment….like when your 18 month old is laying on the grocery store floor screaming. Amidst the tears and the unsolicited advice, it takes every ounce of who you are to not look that person square in the eye and say NO. I. WILL. NOT. MISS. THIS.
And the next thing you know, you’re here: in the Missing It Phase. And dammit, you miss being a mom to little ones. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me? I don’t know. But it happened and I’m here, sorting through the confusion of it all and trying to figure out exactly how I got here to the side of the fence where the grass is supposed to be greener.
Here’s what I know: It started yesterday at the park. It was a beautiful August day, so I figured I’d take the kids to a playground. In reality though I needed to do a Whole Foods run, which is 20 minutes away, so I scheduled a grocery pickup and remembered there was a great playground right nearby that would be perfect for killing time and getting some energy out.
I patted myself on the back for killing birds with stones. You know what I mean.
As we pulled in and parked, Belle said, “there’s a lot of babies and strollers.” I noticed it too but remained optimistic. Once we were inside the gate and the kids scattered, I looked around at the other moms. That song "one of these things is not like the other" played in my head and then it hit me: I’m no longer the mom with diapers in her bag and snacks at the ready. I’m not the mom dressed in workout clothes and a messy bun, pushing one kid on the swings with a baby on her hip. I’m not trying to carry on a conversation with my mom friend while also doing car nap / distance from park to home milage math frantically in my head.
But I was her. I was that mom for what felt like ages…and yet, somehow all of a sudden, I'm not the mom with little ones anymore. I’m the mom with big kids. The mom who has time to shower alone and get dressed in real clothes. The mom who walks onto a playground with nothing but car keys in her hand and a cell phone in her pocket. The mom who doesn't need snacks at the ready because she knows there’s a gas station down the street that sells popsicles for the ride home. When did my kids become old enough for back seat popsicles?
I stood by the slide watching my girls play – surrounded by former versions of myself – and I felt like a traitor. I felt like an imposter who used a fake ID to get into this next phase of motherhood. But the truth is, I didn’t mean to move into this phase, it just sort of happened. Isn’t this what I’d been waiting for all along? Shouldn’t there be some sort of motherhood graduation or step-up celebration? Why does this feel so sad and why do I suddenly wish I was back in toddler purgatory with those messy bun moms?
And then, as if being in playground exile wasn’t sad enough, Belle ran over and told me her legs are too long for the swings and the monkey bars are too short. This was just too much for a Tuesday. How have my kids already OUTGROWN the playground? They turned five and eight this summer. They’re still kids!
We needed a reset. I looked beyond the fence and said, “let’s take a walk around the pond and explore a bit.”
And so we did.
We searched for frogs and painted turtles and goose feathers. We talked about summer and fall and their new school. Rosie skipped and held my hand said, “this is a nice day, mom.”
It really was.
I told them both how taking walks is one of my most favorite things to do. I explained that I used to walk with them with they were babies in a stroller, but as soon as they were toddlers they wanted no part of it. Instead, they wanted to play with the big kids. I told them I’d been waiting for the day when they’d both love taking walks with me again.
The path brought us to a little garden with a brick walkway that spiraled into a big circle. In the center was a huge stone with a beautiful quote written by a mom for her child. We kept walking and crossed a little stone bridge where we stopped and threw rocks into the pond.
At the end of the dirt path, once we were back at the playground gate, Belle said, “look, we walked around the whole pond. It’s like a big circle!” She was right. We’d come full circle and I thought to myself: this side of the fence is pretty great after all.