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To the mom with a toddler: My kids are back to school and I miss being you

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Today, when our eyes met in the aisle, my heart ached.

I sighed to myself and realized I miss you.

Well, not the actual you because, until today, we’ve never met.


I miss the you that you are right now. The you that I am no longer.

As you pushed your red cart containing your toddler, and your preschooler jumped along next to you, I wanted so much to tell you how much I miss being you.

I wanted to tell you about the physical ache I had as I listened to your preschooler yammer about the snack she wanted and how she demanded to get in the cart, presumably for the fourth time during your trip.

I wanted to tell you that the sight of diapers and 18-months clothing in your cart took me right back to fresh baby smells and the putrid smell of baby formula.

But I remained quiet. Silent and brooding in my unexpected sadness.

Quiet is all there is these days, it seems.

My children are little, yet so grown up. Fifteen is independent. Twelve is on the cusp of needing so much less from me.

As I wandered the aisles today, I had the solitude I craved nearly every day when I had toddlers at my feet. I had a clear head, uninterrupted thought, and my mental list was at the forefront of my mind. I remembered the travel shaving cream my husband needed, the disposable dusters I’d run out of last week, the summer nail polish I’d been meaning to buy.

Quiet is finally mine, and yet, the silence is deafening some days.

In the days leading up to the birth of my first child, I swore I wouldn’t lose myself, that I wouldn’t surrender to the world of motherhood. I’d remain The Old Me: the woman who loved to read, go for long runs and drink white wine until I was almost dizzy. Okay, a lot dizzy.

And then motherhood stepped in and gently, slowly and quietly changed me, day by day. My days were long, spent with a toddler with an iron will and an infant who wouldn’t breastfeed. I traded long runs for pacing the hallway at 2 a.m. while books gathered dust on my nightstand. Many a glass of wine stood untouched, watching over me as I collapsed from exhaustion.

The Old Me became The New Me. I finally surrendered to that woman I said I’d never be, the woman I swore I’d resist.

And it was okay because they needed me. I surrendered to the noise. The chaos. The never-ending clamor of two children under 3.

I got used to the noise and the constant chatter. The sound of Cheerios spilling all over the floor became my normal. The wails of a toddler denied Sesame Street and the sweet sounds of an infant finished with her nap through the baby monitor filled my day.

My house was loud. A cacophony of childhood, family and a whole lot of Sesame Street, and I grew to love the madness.

Slowly and insidiously, though, the noise started to quiet. A few hours of preschool meant only one baby making noise at home. Full-day kindergarten led to quieter days and periods of childfree time as the remaining toddler napped. I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could hear the quiet, and I began to realize my life might be my own again soon.

And then, one day, the door slammed and the only sound left was the morning show on television. No spilling Cheerios, no wailing over having to share, no sweet sounds of bare toddler feet on my hardwood floors.

All that was left behind as my babies trudged off to school was eerie, all-encompassing quiet.

The quiet that I craved every single day when my house was so loud was finally mine. And I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t ready for the silence. I wasn’t ready to hear myself think.

Quiet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, friends.

Quiet means real conversations about where my career can go, what I will do with myself now that my stay-at-home parenting days are coming to a close. Silence means reconnecting with my husband, finding new adventures and chasing new dreams. Solitude means I may even go to the grocery store and come home with everything on my list.

Silence and quiet mean I can have my old life back. I can reacquaint myself with The Old Me and figure out where she fits into my new normal. And, as I walk into the gleaming light at the end of the tunnel, I’m excited, I’m scared, and, sometimes, I’m lonely. The quiet is hard to bear, especially at moments like this in the aisles of Target.

And, I promise, I’ll think about it all just as soon as I turn the television on so I can hear myself think.

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