I’m standing at the open car door next to my 3 year old waiting for him to buckle his car seat, the day’s sunlight radiating off of the car and onto my legs, when a familiar Billy Idol riff starts up on the radio. I’m not sure what it is – the humid air, my shorts and boots, the birds chirping merrily in the trees, but suddenly I’m 23 again walking home from dancing at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain with my roommate to our hot Boston apartment with no AC and exposed white bricks in the kitchen.
Catching a glimpse of my reflection, the memory stings a bit. I don’t look all that different than I did then, but that 23 year old and I are worlds apart.
These days I don’t think about my childless years often; the person I was before I had kids is kind of a distant memory, a young girl fumbling through her 20’s, someone I think of fondly but kind of want to pat on the head and say, “save your tears and complaints for the real trials, sweetheart.”
But in that moment by the car, unwrapping my twisted bun and letting my hair fall down around my sides, big and wavy, both kids strangely silent as if they recognized that I’d taken a brief leave of absence, I felt the ache in my heart of times past, of youth and innocence and unrelenting fun. I’ve never let myself actually feel the melancholy of losing so much of myself in my children because it doesn’t feel productive, or like something “good moms do”. But the truth of the matter is, I love my family more than anything, I’d lay my life down for them one hundred times over, but there’s a part of me that misses the autonomy, the agency of being young, and single, and free. Living in a small apartment with no air conditioner and a little herb garden on the fire escape. Walking home late at night in the sticky Boston air, heat rising from the black top, nowhere to be but right there in that moment. Rainy days reading books and watching trees bloom with paper thin white petals. Dancing with friends. Being carefree.
The thing my life lacks most right now is adventure.
While parenting is definitely the greatest adventure of my life, it’s subtle and slow-moving and can become very monotonous. I’m a stay at home / work at home mom which is simultaneously the best and worst of both worlds. Everything in my life is planned, scheduled, expected. I’m endlessly busy but with no variety. For a person that craves adventure and spontaneity, this shift into mothering small children has been, at times, extremely challenging. The girl that has driven across the country – twice – wearing cowboy boots and smoking cigarettes (sorry, Mom) surfaces sometimes, throwing small fits when the despair of boredom takes over.
But at the same time, motherhood has rocked me to the very core, waking up parts of myself that I never knew existed, causing me to love more than I ever thought possible, bombarding me with overwhelming joy and peace. I’m more confident as a mother than I was single, and truly love myself and the person I’m becoming. My kids are teaching me to be disciplined, patient, calm. They are teaching me how to love. They are teaching me to stand up for the things that I believe in, to speak out for others, to be radically honest.
Somewhere inside of myself I have to marry these two worlds – the fun-loving, excited, awe-inspired girl that I once was and the wise and nurturing woman that I’m becoming. This may include a process of mourning the loss of my youth, being honest in my recognition that something has been lost, but at the same time observing the full picture, that I willingly laid down the lifestyle and freedom of my youth so that the adult, the woman, the mother in me could unfold and bloom. I’m not sure how this process will go, but I think this is where it starts.