I was roller-blading with my kids in the double stroller this past Sunday, heading from morning mud-pies in the park to summer peaches at the farmer’s market. As I weaved my way through the crowd of shoppers, a woman who attends the same yoga class that I do caught my eye. She smiled, and asked: “Are you babysitting?” My eyes widened with surprise. I had to stop and think for a minute. Then, as I skated by her, I found my voice, and shouted – “No, they’re my kids!”
I guess I could take it as a compliment. Though, I had thought that after birthing two children I would no longer be confused with a graduating 8th grader. (And I’m sure that she wasn’t using the term in the way that supermarket women use it with my husband when they smile at him ask if he is “babysitting,” implying that, somehow, a father’s spending time with his children is a perk – especially impressive if he’s also doing the shopping). But I was surprised by my reaction – that momentary pause, during which I actually had to think – am I babysitting?
There have been multiple times – last week, in fact – during which I look at my girls and think – who are these creatures, and what are they doing in my bedroom? I wonder – how long does it take to sink in?
I remember buying prenatal vitamins for the first time. I’d been married for almost three years. When I looked up from my wallet to give the guy at the check-out counter my credit card, I was surprised by how cute he was, and how he was looking at me, and I blushed. I was pregnant! I was buying prenatal vitamins! Happily married! It’s like buying tampons. It took me years to feel comfortable. I’d have a running dialogue in my head – they’re not really for me – I don’t need these. I’m buying them for my mom. For a friend. Please don’t look in the bag. When I was working at my first job, I had a meeting with a woman at her house, and her four-year-old daughter answered the door. She looked me up and down and asked: are you a grown-up or a kid? I could not answer.
How long does it take for your life to catch up with you? To realize that those kids in the stroller are your kids? And, is it okay, when, on that rare occasion, you’re skating solo, no stroller to set your course, to, for a moment, forget?