I am in line at the grocery store and staring at the woman in front of me. A smudge of white on her shoulder, oatmeal smeared on her thigh and a raisin stuck on her shoe indicates this is a mother. Her hair is in a ponytail and her shopping cart is full of diapers, baby food and chocolate. All signs point this is a mother with kids under five.
I watch her a little longer and ask, “How old are your kids?”
“Oh, they are five, three and 5 months,” she answers. Her face looks uneasy.
“I’m sorry for asking. I just noticed the smudge on your right shoulder and the diapers in your cart. I remember those days. I have two of my own,” I answer to ease her gaze.
She continues to unload her cart. She stops suddenly and asks, “How old are your kids now?”
“They’re nine,” I say, “It goes fast doesn’t it?” I ask as I search her face for understanding.
She smiles and hesitates. Her stare lands on my eyes and rests there for a while. I get the feeling she is not in the ‘It goes by so fast’ stage yet.
“I guess it goes by fast, but lately I am wondering if it will ever end. I can’t see past the diapers, bottles and naps. I sometimes feel I am going out of my mind,” she confesses while looking at me over a package of baby wipes.
The checker is also looking at me. I guess I better say something profound. “I remember being up to my hips with kids hanging all over me, diapers and bottles that never seem to get clean and days scheduled around naptimes,” I say.
She and the checker are still staring at me, so I figure I need to say more.
“Yes,” I state, “It does end. All too soon. I know it’s hard but in just a few years when they are all off to school; you will miss these days and how simple they are. The days are hard, but they are…simple. Other Moms told me to enjoy the years when the kids are little and it’s true. Enjoy every slobber, every sticky hand and every footed pajama you can. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny disappear along with the fingerprints on the wall. You will look back one day and wonder how on earth you did all this work. Everything will be ok. I promise.” I finish with four eyes still staring at me.
The checker continued to scan the diapers and remained silent. I think in checker school they are trained to not talk about what you are buying or personal matters. The Mom glanced at me for a while then turned to pay. As she began to leave, the Mom looked back at me and said, “I hope you’re right.”
“In the meantime, chocolate helps,” I say. She smiles and goes on her way.