It was one of those moments...I had the 25-pounder on my hip, a full blown wrestling match necessary to keep him from sliding down my side again and onto the floor, where he desperately wanted to reach the elevator alarm button.
Errands with a 15-month-old are not easy. No, let me correct that: errands with this 15-month-old are not easy. My first kid? I could go to the mall on Black Friday for 10 hours and he'd sit happily in the stroller the whole time.
Today was the second day in a row when I'd had to spend hours on my own with Aidan Kai while trying to accomplish something. Simple tasks such as buying a loaf of bread or dropping off a pair of glasses for repair become full blown tests of physical endurance and mental strength with this kid.
Yes, he's cute. Reeeeeeal cute. And funny. Reeeeeeal funny. But that baby who wailed the entire first four and a half months of his life? Still there.
So as I was standing there in the elevator, wondering how in the world women who don't work out can physically handle their toddlers when I thought surely I'd end the afternoon with either a broken back or a broken baby, a woman steps into the elevator with her teenage son. She looked serene. Her hair was brushed. She smiled at me. She made cooing sounds at Aidan Kai. That's when she points to her son and says wistfully: "Awwww, it's hard to believe he used to be that little." Another woman who had been standing behind me immediately piped in: "Yeah, they really do grow up so fast."
"Yeah, I hope so!"
It was my attempt at a bit of humor and a bit of honesty.
These two women with grown children did not think it was so funny. Or true, apparently.
"Oh, no, no, noooooo. Enjoy it. Trust us." They both nodded emphatically, nearly in unison.
At this point, the elevator door opens and as we all step out, the woman with the teenage son slows down enough to let him walk ahead. She turns back to me and conspiratorially whispers (complete with the hand over the mouth for dramatic emphasis): "You know how they say this is the best time?" She pauses and motions to Aidan. "It really is true." With that, she shuffles along to catch up with her son.
And I am left standing there, blinking. Discouraged.
You mean this is IT? This is where it peaks? Then I'm screwed, because most days, I'm not digging this part so much.
Look, I get it. I know I will look back and ooooh and ahhhh and nostalgically remember the days when my boys were babies. I already do that sometimes with Ben. I get that these days really will fly by in the grand scheme of things. I understand that they are only little for a very short time. I do know that. You realize it all the more when you've had one already grow up into a small boy, all scruffy and rough-and-tumble and occasionally stinky. So I do take time to inhale all that baby/Cheerios/milk/drool smell Aidan Kai manages to harbor in his neck and, amazingly, the very tippy top of his head. I do still make sure to take tons of pictures, so I never miss out on any lasting memories with the second child. I do try to keep in mind that this will be The Last Time In My Whole Life that I will see my child learn how to walk and say a new word and discover Mickey Mouse.
But I also think: it's gotta get easier. It's got to. Because, quite frankly, I can't do this much longer.
I often find myself fantasizing--we're talking full out theatrical production complete with narration going on in my head here--about when the boys will be old enough to be self-sufficient. No, I don't mean get jobs and move out. I don't want to fast forward that much. But an independent bath and butt wipe would be lovely. To be able to go to the beach, come home, and call out "Okay, everybody to the shower and then we're getting a pizza and a movie!" To be able to run an errand without lugging a wriggling, borderline-tantrumy sack of potatoes back and forth. To be able to unload a dishwasher without having to use one foot as a mid-air gate to keep the baby from climbing into it.
So, really, how bad do things get after this? Did that woman in the elevator know something I don't? Is this like when parents don't tell people who are thinking about having kids how tough it really is because a) they don't want to frighten them and b) misery loves company?
I've spoken to many women who tell me that they absolutely loooooved the baby stage. Sometimes I wonder if they really did, in fact, love it while they were in it, or, if maybe after the years have passed, they love the memories of it. Maybe once it's all over and you have grown kids running around, with their own set of issues and challenges, you just remember that fat wriggly cooing baby and wish for that simplicity. You block out the sleepless nights, the ear-splitting tantrums in the grocery store, the mashed peas thrown across the room. I read somewhere once that scientists have discovered that the brain tends to forget unpleasant memories. It's like a defense mechanism. I suppose if you couple that scientific logic with the everyday aches and pains of babyhood, it makes sense that we'd remember only the good.
The next time Aidan Kai is screeching, stiff-legged, refusing to sit down in the shopping cart, I will try and remember that woman with the teenager. I will try. And maybe, just maybe, one day I will walk into an elevator and see a struggling mom with her struggling baby and smile knowingly, maybe even long for the smell of Cheerios and drool. But I don't think I will tell her to "enjoy it." Because really, that's kind of unnecessary.