We went to the zoo over the weekend. Just the kids and I, like “old times,” as they like to say. I had a single backpack with a few drinks and granola bars, my wallet and my phone. My oldest carried her own bag, and my middle child was sure to snag a map at the entrance, even though we’ve been there a hundred times before.
But the “hundred times before” for him, he was in a carrier, or a stroller, or crying before we were able to break away from the diaper change in the floorboard of the minivan. His younger brother would have been screaming, waiting to be nursed, while his four year old sister would have been trying to devise different ways to exit the minivan, due to the wailing and diaper pail smell, of course.
Planning to enter the zoo would have taken me a good forty-five minutes, a double stroller, a backpack carrier, and a minimal amount of sanity. It would have been a labor of love, as all of those tangible motherhood moments are, but this weekend was different. This trip, I could breathe.
My kids are growing up, and I’m not sad.
Young motherhood totally wrecked me in ways I still cannot put into words. While I watched friends gently swaddle their newborns or lovingly play with their toddlers, I struggled just to make it from sunrise to sunset with my three kids under three. There are women that thrive in the newborn/toddler stage. But for those of us who do not, it is a lonely space to live. You feel isolated when motherhood seems to suit so many before you. You feel alone when having so many babies in one tiny house can make it an impossible feat to leave for a simple trip to the store, while other moms can seemingly balance the newborns in the jogging stroller, a hot cup of coffee, and toddler on her hip, and look stylish while doing it.
What I have discovered is that childhood can indeed be magical, it just depends on where your magic lays. I can make a stranger’s baby cry just by smiling at it in the grocery line, but talking to my nine, six, and five year olds about the giraffes we saw that day, how many marshmallows we plan to roast around the fire tonight, and what chapter they are on in their favorite book I can handle with ease.
My kids are growing up, and I am growing up a little, too.
We returned late that night, trying to make the most of the long weekend. Everyone rubbed their eyes and sleepily unbuckled themselves from their seats and trudged along inside. I grabbed a few empty coffee mugs from the front seat and threw my purse over my shoulder when I spotted my five year old, sitting on the porch steps in the dark, looking at the moon.