This past weekend was the second weekend in a row that the weather was damp and cool and rainy. People who know me in real life (and in the writing world, I suppose) will have little sympathy, because for weeks now I've been talking about daffodils and blooming azaleas, and the kids have been playing outside in short sleeves and crocs. Weekends like this past one really bring home to me how lucky we are to live in a state where the weather is often mild and sunny, almost year-round. I really can't imagine what we'd do with two housebound children--one with way too much frantic and wound-up energy most of the time--if we had to spend weeks and weeks indoors. I truly never really got the expression "bouncing off the walls" until I became a parent, and then witnessed for myself exactly how kids really can do this.
After lunch and "rest time" on Sunday, we packed the kids up and headed off to use up a free family pass to the local children's museum. This is a new place, but the old place we used to go to moved into this new space and has been swallowed up by a larger museum. Many of the old favorite activity areas are still around, plus thrilling new ones, to boot. I used to take L. to the old museum all the time--especially that first year we moved to North Carolina. For the first six months of that year we only had one car, and I'd drive Scott into work and then L. and I would hang around until the museum opened at 9:00. I spent hours watching him play there; watching him toddle around the different exhibits in that serious, earnest way he still has. I'd watch the moms come in with their friends or in playgroups, and I'd feel my loneliness so keenly as I stood there to one side, still a new girl in town, watching my toddler explore his world.
I look back now and so desperately want that year back--or parts of it, at least. That year when it was just me and L., and I stayed home with him all day, and the days were a routine of morning story times and lunch promptly at 11:30 and naps and laundry-folding and homemade play-doh--all the sometimes mundane daily tasks turned exciting and mysterious when seen through a small child's eyes. Of course, at the time I often felt lonely and bored and frustrated; I didn't know then what I know now--that if you stay home exclusively with a small child, you really need a support network close by: friends, family, play-dates--people you can call up and talk with when you feel the need to do just that. Now that we've lived in this town almost seven years, I have all of that but no time--such is the catch-22 of life. But I would love the chance to close my eyes and find myself back at the start of a day, and find that my kids are not seven-going-on-seventeen, or a stubborn and delightful four, but that they are those months in-between one and two years old--those truly magical and maddening months, when language is about to bloom, bubbling on the edge of their lips, and diaper-changes are giggling wrestling matches, all rounded limbs and dimpled feet.
I thought about all this at the museum on Sunday, while I watched the small babies toddling around, and climbing in and out of the same red car L. used to climb out of when he was 15 months old, and the pretend fire truck T. used to pull up on when she was first trying to walk. And there was plenty at every turn NOT to be wistful about: the tantrums from the small ones when they got tired, the baby crying and fussing in dad's arms while he tried to get her to take a bottle, the mom whisking her boy off to the bathroom, trailing that poopy-diaper smell in their wake. I didn't envy them any of that (well, maybe I did a little) but I did want some of it back again, if only for a few minutes, and if only to remind myself again--in more tangible ways--how sweet the sweet parts really were.