There’s a farm market on the other side of our town that, like many small, family-owned farms, opens a play area for children every fall. It has a “fun fort” in a would-be greenhouse. It has burlap-sack rides, and corn boxes and animals to feed. There are tire swings, and hay forts and bean bag games and mazes. For children, this is a kiddie paradise to fall in, crawl around on, run and leap and slide. Parents, you know what it means for us…
It means the purchase of quart loads of stain remover. And an entire three-month season that revolves around picking hay out of shorts, out of socks, out of hair. I didn’t buy the season pass today, telling myself I didn’t want to fork over that much cash for two children, that we wouldn’t be coming back here often enough to make it worth it.
Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?
Quinn’s at the stage in toddler mobility right now (can she still be called a toddler if she’s not actually toddling yet?) that she’s giddy to stay put in the boxes filled with corn and toys, while I eyeball SK as she races from one activity to the next. This is kind of boring for a grown-up, because usually when children are this deep into the play zone, they’re not much for conversation. Today–of all days, an 81-degree fall day, in a greenhouse that heats up to approximately 549 degrees by lunchtime–I was resting on a hay bale (natch), watching the girls shovel dried corn (or acorns, according to the elder daughter) into old dump truck toys. The place was pretty empty, except for a mom whining at her two boys to stop-that-or-we’re-leaving over and over again (I almost offered to help her take the kids to the car, but figured the gesture might be as well-received as it was intentioned. Right move, right?). And I kept thinking about the fall three years ago, when I came to this place for the first time with SK.
She was just six or seven months old, and couldn’t do much except sit–again–in the corn boxes, or go down a slide with me, but by golly, we were tearing around that place like she ruled the coop (because there are chickens there, of course). Gosh, I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I’d just a couple months before quit my full-time teaching job and was interviewing for part-time college work (you can see how much I wanted that job here: Straddling the Line and here: Patience and Pitfalls. Just in case you don’t feel like going back to your work/laundry/family just yet). I was just about to meet some wonderful new mom friends, but I didn’t know that yet, and I was lost. Unsure of my new role in life, not confident about the choice I’d made to stay home, I was wondering when I’d stop feeling like I was missing out on something by doing something so, well, simple as “just” raising a family. I know, I’m snickering now, too. But crazy post-partum, boob-feeding hormonal changes aside, that first year was really, really strange for me.
And today I was just hanging out, sweating my ponytail off, laughing with my kids. I wasn’t wondering what my future would hold, I didn’t feel like my little world was too small for me (well, I will admit that a cousin’s trip to Scotland and a couple of friends’ recent vacations to Napa does make me kind of want to dig out the passport, but did I mention I didn’t take that job with all the extra income?). I’d spent the morning helping the girls pick out pumpkins and mums, and accidentally made their day with a muddy wagon ride. After we’d leave the market, we’d go home to eat some boring ol’ PB and apple jelly. I wanted to vacuum the living room, and finish making dinner, and write this blog post and work on my Novel of Epic Awesomeness (yes, friends, I’m still working on the damned thing, so slowly that sometimes I can’t remember my protagonist’s name. And yes, I still can’t shake the feeling that it’s still a steaming pile of horse poo, but I’m nothin’ if not stubborn…That, and even manure is good for something). I needed to clip coupons and make a grocery list and return some emails. That’s it. And it was okay.
I wish I could’ve told my scared little self–the one sitting in the hay with her baby, wondering what to do next–that a couple of years ago. I wish I knew that one day soon I’d have kids who were filthy from play, a car that contained more sippy cups than our cabinets, running shoes that wanted me to use them more often than I did. That soon enough school was starting and the baby would be running and that you know what? At least I was writing the darned book, sentence-by-sentence or not. I wish I could’ve given that self a kick in the butt, or a pat on the shoulder, and told her to chill. Relax. Enjoy what’s in your lap.
Because it’s okay. Life is what’s around you now, and it changes so quickly, and it doesn’t matter if the baby’s just pretended to swim in the corn box, she can always get a bath. It’s okay. And sometimes, even if it’s really stinking hot and the mums are wilting in the car, sitting on a bale of hay, just watching your kids, is really kind of nice.