It’s the fifth hour of the road trip, just me and my three-year-old. The big kids stayed at home with their dad, while I drive through four states to Ohio, the place I grew up, to attend a funeral.
The little guy is good in the car and after watching trucks, loads of construction, taking a long nap, “reading” a few books, and stopping for an early dinner, he is talking away.
“Gramma made oatmeal for Grandpa yesterday morning.”
“Yesterday?” I ask.
Oh, there is something magical about three year olds, isn’t there? This kid hasn’t seen Grandma and Grandpa in six months.
“Yesterday, I broke a string on my guitar.” (Nine months ago.)
“Yesterday, Phin burned his hand on the stove.” (This incident happened on Mother’s Day about five years ago. My husband was cooking pancakes to serve me in bed, but turned around just long enough for my second child, who was two and a half at the time, to reach up and burn his hand on the griddle. Even though it was a memorable Mother’s Day, it was at least two years before my youngest, the one who is reporting the incident now, was even born.)
“Yesterday, I had a churro [chew-o] at Costco.” (We haven’t been there in three weeks.)
“Yesterday, Santa was riding on a fire truck.”
My daughter looks at him sideways. “That was, like, last Christmas.”
“He doesn’t understand what ‘yesterday’ means, honey,” I say.
“Shouldn’t you teach him?”
I shake my head and wink at her. No.
My daughter (my oldest) turns 10 soon and the double-digit thing makes me want to sit down and fan my face for a bit. (How did this happen? Where have I been? What in the world is going on?!)
I had a day last week where I actually sat down and cried---Lord only knows what I’ll be like when she turns 16, goes away to college, or HelpMeJesus gets married.
I try to make photo books for the kids at each birthday. Although that is a true statement, don’t be impressed. I’m three years behind on my daughter and two behind on my middle child. I have only one completed for my three year old. Regardless, they love to look through the books they have, especially around their birthdays.
Looking through pictures of my daughter, and even though I’ve lived every single one of these days, it doesn’t seem possible I’ve been a mom for a decade. She was just born.
It wasn’t that long ago when we lived in a small, two-bedroom condo (I’m sorry. I’m kind of lying. It was a one bedroom with a den that I called a two bedroom) with our dog and two little kids.
Every day we’d leave that space for the coffee shop across the street, the park at the end of the road, or a friend’s house who lived within my safety-net of young motherhood. If I was feeling adventurous (Adventurous is code for Guilt of not exploring the city we lived so close to overlaid with Obligation. I would have bailed every single time, had I not planned to go with some of my mom friends), I’d pack an arsenal of snacks and quarters, pray-to-God-to-find-parking-before-someone-needs-to-pee, and go to a museum or an exhibit with the comfort of knowing if I ran out of anything, forgot something (diapers, wipes, snacks, quarters), if a child had a major meltdown, or the baby needed to nurse, I’d have backup and a few extra hands.
Nap time, stickers, lollipops, and bottles were the building blocks of my days. They were all stacked high into a tower and taped together by cartoon character band-aids. My whole world was drenched in coffee, slathered in sunscreen, and smelled like spit up.
Now, we have four walls that don’t touch anyone else’s. We often stick close to home. We have swings in our own backyard and grass we mow ourselves. Adventure awaits my children anytime we open the door.
Today, we’re in the thick of soccer and swimming and homework. We’ve exchanged board books for board games. I’m going to blink and be texting (or snapchatting? Or who even knows what else) with my own children and handing them keys to our car.
I look back and wish I enjoyed my little ones more. I’ll probably look back on these days and say the same thing. I’m suspicious we all feel that way about these seasons of motherhood and will remember them with mixed emotions.
The “It was sweet, but it was hard” part of toddlerhood.
The “It was busy, but it was fun” part of older kids.
The “It was hard, but they are good” part of adolescence.
I don’t think it ever stops.
While I was in Ohio, an uncle I rarely see asked, “How old are you now, Sonya?”
With a playful wince, I said, “38.”
His eyes widened and I started to laugh. (I know, right? I feel the same way. I'm pretty sure I’m still 17.)
My dad overheard us, shook his head and smiled. “Thirty-eight. It’s hard to believe.” Then he said the words I’ve heard a thousand times over, “I remember the day you were born.”
All too soon, my son will get this Time thing figured out. His days will turn into months and then into years. It happens to all of them.
But for us mothers, it will seem like just Yesterday.