It seems like just yesterday I was cringing when a stranger would walk up to my shopping cart reaching in to stroke my little one’s head or offer their finger for my baby to hold. I’d become a pro at anticipating their advances and could position myself just in time to block their grimey paws from getting too close. Nine years and 3 kids later, I’m standing in the cereal aisle when a man hears my toddler’s babbling and makes eye contact with her. I saw the smile grow on his face and his eyes lit up. I know that look. It’s the same look I get when I see a new mom holding a little balled up newborn on her chest. I’m transported back in time – that feeling of soft, peach fuzz hair against my cheek, that sweet newborn head smell, the warmth of that cozy little bundle of perfection in my arms. I’d give anything to have that feeling again, even if only for a moment. My toddler gave the man a big smile and held up her smooshed cookie as he walked toward my shopping cart. This time though, I stepped aside and let him approach. “What you got there? A cookie?” he asked. “I love your pretty dress,” he said as he pointed to the princess on her chest and asked, “is that Cinderella?” He told me he had 2 daughters, one who was about to get married. In that brief moment, my baby girl had transported him back to a time when his girls were just little babbling babies with sticky hands and princess dresses.
And that’s when I realized, or rather when I accepted, that I am going to be that crazy lady in the grocery store chasing down people’s babies to talk to. Chasing down something I’ve lost and long for terribly. As my infants turn into toddlers, and toddlers turn into pre-schoolers there are parents out there with teenagers turning into adults and daughters turning into wives and mothers. I have lost a lot as a parent, up to and including, my sanity, my muscle tone and my privacy. The one thing that can never be replaced though is ‘today’.