When my nine year old son was two, we would sometimes walk his sister to kindergarten. One day on our walk home, I was chatting with a neighbor and my toddler was screeching and twisting in the stroller, struggling to get out. Finally, frustrated and wanting to be able to have 2 minutes of adult conversation, I let him out . He bolted down a long stretch of grass directly toward a busy street. Moving at top speed, he did not slow as he neared the curb. I ran screaming, “Stop! Stop!” No response. No slowing. Then, miraculously, he stopped abruptly at the curb. My heart throbbed and I picked him up winded and shaking. (That was me who was winded and shaking. My son was grinning and I think I saw a glint in his eye.)
This is the same child I mentioned yesterday who is preparing to be a great scientist. He is incredibly curious, energetic, and swift--a dangerous combination. I should mention that he is also incredibly tender, affectionate, and fun. All my toddlers (I’m on my seventh currently) have been challenging and lovable. Parenting toddlers has been tremendously trying. It has often brought me to my knees -- in prayer, in pleading, and let’s not forget, in wiping, scooping, mopping, scrubbing, and last but not least, in complete exhaustion. On tough days (read months), I have even exclaimed, “I am SO done with toddlers!” But through it all, I have had my share of cuddles, scribbled love notes, and spontaneous expressions of,”I love you!” I think I’ve even learned a thing or two.
Today, seven years later, I made another walk to kindergarten with my stroller, and a two year old. We’ve been making this walk for over five months and have marked our path with familiar stopping points ( the stop sign, the yellow boat, the CURB!). For several weeks now, I have let my two year old out of the stroller for the walk home. Instead of making life-threatening sprints toward the street, he knows how and where to stop and how to hold on to the stroller when we cross the street. Today, for the first time I let him walk both ways to school as I pushed an empty stroller. As we went along, my neighbor commented. “You’re not going to need that stroller much longer.” Everything froze for an imperceptible instant. Years of sleep deprivation, potty training and endless spills, messes, and accidents raced through my brain. I could even remember the words of my dear, wise mother-in law saying, “you’ll weep as you bear and raise them and you’ll weep when you’re done.” Not me, I had begun to think. After years of feeling stretched to capacity and beyond, I was pretty sure I would feel at peace about it all--maybe even do a little jig.
But suddenly, I feel like screaming again at my little toddler who is out of the stroller, “Stop! Stop!” And the thought of packing away my stroller makes me want to cry.