Except when it doesn’t.
Like normal business hours with kids under the age of four. Or rainy weekends when you have a low threshold for television guilt. Or when it’s below 30 or above Code Orange. Or from June-August (or between 4-7). Or when they would rather die than play five minutes without you. Or when you’re waiting in the ER for someone to acknowledge their bloody body. Or when you’re stuck in traffic on 95 and the DVD player cord breaks and the battery dies. Or when you’re glued to coverage of Katrina and war and tsunamis. Or while you’re scrubbing a breast milk explosion out of your fingernails. Or when you’re half-way through the grocery store and you feel the rumblings of a class-4 tantrum. Or when there’s lice. Or your sitter cancels.
And then one day you have just enough breathing room to realize that this is probably the last year your child will appreciate a stuffed animal in her Easter basket. And she probably won’t cry when her next teacher tells her that her mom needs to drop her off at the front of the school. And your little one moans at even the idea of running errands with you. And she wants to play your iPhone while in the cart, absorbed in the same world you spend much of your time, turning you into silent companions. And you feel the need to fill the quiet. So you instinctively do it with a song, or a sound effect, because you’ve been kind of silly for the last seven years and she looks up and says, “Mama, please be serious.”
And in the middle of Costco you understand why Uncle Robert always had so much energy around the cousins at family gatherings. And why Uncle Nick reveled in calling you Cindy Bear in front of your friends. And why some of your parents’ friend never really gave up the playful talk around you, even when you were, like, totally too old for it. It was fun. It was a relief. And just like that store from ’05 where you found the best shirt you ever owned (and nothing else since), you keep going back in. Because it made you feel good. And you want that good feeing again. At just about any cost.
So you start tolerating park trips, almost looking forward to them, because you can see that your kids have almost outgrown it. And you kind of feel sad when your child sees a friend and abandons you on the spot. (No you don’t. You just say that because you feel like you should.) But you sniff out friends with babies because while you don’t want more, you get that part from Raising Arizona when Glen says, “I don’t really need another kid, but Dot says these are gettin’ too big to cuddle.” So you keep the TV on a little bit longer because the kids still argue over who sits next to you, and who gets your lap, and you’re not sure how much longer they’ll care. And you let them fight over who gets to hold your hand, making sure they’re both empty. Just in case.
And you find yourself telling your friends with small kids that this time goes by with a (((SNAP!))) just like a wise grandmother told you. And just like you, they long for the freedom you have, willing to pay the price of any silliness just to have some breathing space. And you silently barter with them. Trading them some time alone for a few minutes to be silly with their kids. Though it’s not quite the same. They’re not the little ones you couldn’t wait to outgrow.
Or the ones who are outgrowing you.