“What you need is some Baby Windex,” I said to my friend-slash-work-pal, Lindsay, after she mentioned that she’s giving her baby a quick bath after every meal. Her voice got frantic and excited.
“Baby Windex?! I need that. What is that?”
My earbuds are in and attached to the oversized phone in my back pocket while I interrupt our work call for a mom segue.
“It’s Mustela something-something, but you squirt a little on a tissue or a washcloth and it’s — I don’t know how to describe it as anything other than Baby Windex. I thought I came up with this description on my own but a cursory google search tells me other people refer to it as Baby Windex, too. It’s great for after meals or little kid trips to the bathroom. Almost as good as a bath. I still keep my linen closet stocked with it.”
You know, parent readers, how when you had your baby, there was always some older lady in the grocery store who would get a little too close and seem a little too excited and would say creepy things like “I could put your baby on a hard roll and just EAT him”?
I can feel myself morphing into that. In Target, I found myself hunched over a stroller like a gargoyle, having a full conversation with a baby that couldn’t respond. At school drop-off, I joked about “just wanting to sniff” another mom’s three month old.
Life pro tip: don’t tell strangers you want to sniff their children.
Remmy’s seven, Sophie’s six, and Minnie’s a few weeks shy away from turning four. When I think about the days I had a three-year-old, a two-year-old, and a newborn, I want to travel back in time and give myself a good game butt slap and a Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy” chant.
It’s a whole new world for us now. Jack and I aren’t sleep-deprived (or if we are, it’s out of our own volition, and not due to quotidian baby wake-up calls). We’ve been diaper-free for two years. On the weekends we can hop in the car with the girls and head out without having to worry about rushing back in time for the Sacred 1pm Nap. We can plan to go to the local rock gym’s open climb and all of us can participate. Yesterday all three of them were sitting and reading books — Remmy was quietly absorbed in a chapter book, while Sophie read a book to Minnie.
And while I love it, I have to tamp down the awful feeling that time is slipping away.
I was sitting in a restaurant alone, getting some work done, and I saw a mother and her teenage daughter walk in. The younger seemed polite, but bored, and it hit me that at some point — maybe when my kids are 17, 16, and almost 14 — that Mom and Dad are no longer going to be their first choice for dinner company. That on some Friday nights, instead of the five of us chattering around the dinner table, noise levels slightly higher than what I deem to be pleasant, it’ll be me and Jack and the sound of the evening news.
I started reading to the girls at the breakfast table. It’s a nice way for us to take a pause as the day starts and spend a little time together. They sit and eat their oatmeal while I read a chapter of Anne of Green Gables out loud to them. That book (and accompanying books) was such a big part of my childhood, that sharing it with them — I declared that I’ve been waiting my whole mom life for this — has been really incredible for me. We cried together during Anne’s “You don’t want me because I’m not a boy?” speech and sat in suspense over Minnie May being sick with the croup.
We’re nearing the end, and I’ve been worried about the chapter where Matthew passes away. I keep making a mental note to time it so I’m reading it to them at night, and not right before I usher them out the front door to go to school.
But I’m finding that the story is hitting me in unexpected ways, too. My throat caught a little during this morning’s reading:
“The child she had learned to love had vanished somehow and here was this tall, serious-eyed girl of fifteen … Marilla loved the girl as much as she had loved the child, but she was conscious of a queer, sorrowful sense of loss.”
It continues on to how Marilla sat in her house alone and cried. And for the first time ever in the span of dozens of times I’ve read the book and even more dozens of times I’ve watched the movie, it’s not Anne I’m relating to — it’s her sixty-year old caretaker, Marilla.
Maybe it’s why I’m happy to scoop a baby out of a friend’s hands and give her a break. Maybe it’s why I’m happy to share recommendations for Baby Windex and bedtime clocks. It’s mostly because I remember how hard the baby days were and I sympathize, but maybe it’s a little bit of a reminder of the days when my now alarmingly tall Remmy was a tiny bundle that I held in the crook of my arm. And that the passing of each phase of childhood makes me happy and a little sad at the same time.
I’ll try not to go full gargoyle next time I run into you and your baby at Target. No promises, though.