The boys raced down the hill towards the train station. It was a miniature train, wooden seats and open sides, that made a short loop around the nature center we were visiting with their grandparents and aunt. It was a bright, warmer-than-usual spring day in Massachusetts, not too crowded. We all found seats together, and sat eagerly clutching our tickets as we waited for the conductor in his striped hat.
When my little guy is really excited, he gets quiet and wide-eyed. He nods at questions and hardly blinks, not wanting to miss a thing. My older son gets loud and silly, wiggling in his seat, giggling with his brother. Finally: Woo-woo! We were off.
A lot of people say that the best part about having kids is getting to relive your childhood. This never seemed like a perk to me. Not that my childhood was so bad – far from it – but I’ve been there, done that. And let’s face it, grownups and kids like different things. I’d rather read a book in a beach chair than build sand castles, go for a hike than go to the playground, and stab myself in the eye with a fork than watch “Caillou” or read Tractors and Other Farm Machines 17 times in a row.
The other thing that’s different is that when you’re the parent, you do all the work. Who WOULDN’T love to go to Disneyworld when someone else has made and paid for all the travel arrangements, packed the snacks and sunscreen, and carries everything around for you all day long?
I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but there have been plenty of family outings I didn’t enjoy one bit because I was too worried about my kids drowning, how far we were from a bathroom, whether I’d packed enough diapers and wipes, and the hell we would all endure if we missed the window for nap time. Parenting’s not all a second chance at childhood.
But sometimes, I get what those people are talking about. I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery during our train ride. I was too busy watching my sons. Their excitement was infectious. I clicked away with my camera, trying to capture their breeze-ruffled hair and sunlight-dappled cheeks. The beaming grins as they turned around to point something out to their grandparents or me. “Did you see that, Mom? And look at THAT! We’re going through a tunnel!!”
Before long, the train pulled back into the station. Our ride was over. I gathered up my bag full of snacks and water and hand sanitizer, reached to hold little hands, zip coats, warn the boys to walk, don’t run. I was The Mom again. For a few minutes, though, the weight of responsibility was lifted away on the early spring breeze. I breathed in joy, exhaled stress. It was like being a child again, but better.
LINK O’ THE DAY: Dreading the next well-intentioned but over-the-top school event? You’re in good company. Check out my humor essay in the April/May issue of Working Mother. Hopefully this doesn’t result in my kids being given extra homework by disgruntled teachers!