Monday, March 25, 2013

The End of the Sympathetic Stare

Amidst my existential crisis about moving to the suburbs, along with all the storing and packing and painting and wiping and hiding and giving away of our stuff, time is actually flying.  These babies of mine are growing up fast.

I've noticed lately that I no longer get the "sympathetic stare" when I am in stores with the children.  Last year I got this attention all the time - pretty much every time we dared darken automatic doors.  The knowing smile of mothers and grandmothers who have gone before me.  The spontaneous conversations initiated by strangers in the aisles of Target with a simple, "Wow, you must really have your hands full."  4, 2, and 0 really brought that Midwestern friendliness out in people, or perhaps I  simply looked like a basket case, but we will ignore that possibility.

Suddenly, at ages 5, 3, and 1, I'm just another lady with kids.  Nothing special to see here folks, move along.  Which is fine, of course.  Procreating doesn't deserve an award, and it's not as if I expect a slow clap and a cut to the front of the express checkout just for buying paper towels with my children in tow.  I will admit, though, that I miss the public acknowledgement that what I'm doing here isn't easy.  Georgia, June, and Waylon aren't exactly forgiving on the performance reviews.  Actually, with the exception of complaining about the food (or violently throwing it, as the case may be for Waylon), it's not so much that they express that I'm doing a bad job as it is the fact that they seem to have no awareness that what I'm doing around here requires any effort at all.

In preparation for selling our condo, we took down the baby gate this week.  Waylon, having been practically raised by wolves being that he is a third child, doesn't need a baby gate anymore.  He became proficient on the stairs much earlier than his sisters did, due to lapses in adult supervision I'm sure.  The gate's absence jarred me more than I would've expected.  Visually, first of all, because it's been there since the days of the nanny share with Harry, so it was installed well before Georgia was even mobile.  It struck me emotionally, too, though, when it occurred to me that in this day and age, at least in America, people who do not have baby gates at the top of their stairs do not have babies.  Waylon is 19 months old now, and as the "baby" of our family I often continue to think of him as one.  By contrast, with each of the girls, I was about 20 weeks pregnant by the time they reached 20 months old, which in each case made it easy to think of the bump in my belly as "the baby" and my growing toddlers as big girls.

If you're waiting for a big conclusion here there isn't one.  I mean, I know he's still only 1, not to mention that all three of these kids will always be my babies no matter their age.  I'd also like to point out the irony here that shopping with all three children is typically tougher now than it was a year ago (sorry, Crystal, newly crowned mother of three!).  At least then, one was immobile, whereas now I have to deal with Waylon trying to stand up or climb out of the cart.  (Have I mentioned that one of his nicknames of late is "the mountain goat"?) 

The sympathetic stare may have ended, but I still get some giggles and "Awwww!"'s when June and Waylon bust out the simultaneous finger sucking in public.  I'm sure the day will come, if it hasn't already, when those glances become less friendly and more judgmental, but knowing what I do about their proclivity for self soothing in this way, I won't let it bother me.

Cart cuties keeping it chill
(This was even better when they were 2 and 0.  June is at least old enough now that if we've been out and about touching hundreds of dirty surfaces I can usually successfully remind her not to suck fingers until we've had a chance to go home and wash hands, but with Waylon, I don't even try.  Is that bad?)         


Sarah said...

Isn't it crazy how much you do that gets taken for granted? Like pretty much everything? And I did the same to my Mom, and now instead of stroking her on a daily basis about how I don't know how she did it, I just put more pressure on myself to do the same, and the cycle continues. The circle of life as a mother :)

I also find it funny how little comments at the store can make a big difference. It can affect my mood, Mia's mood, it can keep her from entering a tantrum and also send her into one. I always stayed out of the way of Moms with several kids in tow, but I think I'll try and be more helpful. Maybe that's why the old ladies usually have something to say - they've been there and now have time to sit back and watch :)

Sara Struckman said...

You can keep one of your kids from sucking on a digit(s) until home? I'm amazed. Parent of the year! My daughter sucks her thumb all day, every day. And she's old enough now that it's not "cute" any more. We're trying to wait it out.

Anonymous said...

from Tom T.

"Procreating doesn't deserve an award" <=== Yes it does.