Of course, they were right. Everything did change. Mostly it changed in the most incredible ways, as our marriage became a family, our house became a home, and our lives expanded to make room for all of the new love.
Yet there were pieces of our old life I missed too. I missed spontaneity, heading out into the world with only my free time and the clothes on my back. I missed the long rambling walks through the farmer’s market, or impromptu trips to the beach, or even the freedom to run last minute to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for a dinner I suddenly decided I was craving.
It’s not that I can’t do versions of these things with my children in tow, of course I can. What I mourned was that element of convenience that was lost when my child was with me, say, in the grocery store: asking for treats, needing a diaper change or countless bathroom visits, or just tired and melting down in the aisle. Of course to bring small children along begets the bringing of so much more, all of those supplies required just to leave the house: diapers and changing supplies and bottles and sippy cups and spare clothes for the inevitable surprises that surprise none of us anymore.
It’s not just the grocery shopping, it’s all of it. Going places with kids is indeed a change. Time moves differently. Kids ask questions, wonder, and investigate. Things that are a familiar part of our landscape are intriguing to little eyes and little hands, and we stop over and over again to bend and examine. “What’s this, Mommy?” they ask, holding out a flower, an insect, a snowflake, a cigarette butt. I answer as patiently as I can, again and again, as what was once a ten-minute trip stretches into an hour or even two. Even the getting in and out of the car takes exponentially longer. There's no denying it, our kids slow us down.
When I think about my life before, I was always moving. Tasks were accomplished and crossed from the list, and there's no denying it all ran much smoothly than it does now. But at what cost? How much of what I walked briskly past did I actually see? How often did I stop to catch my breath and wonder at the majesty of what was laid out in front of me?
There is such beauty in the child's eye view, after all. The other day I bent over the stroller to see what my babe was seeing and it struck me: things are different down there. A child sees things differently than we do, and how could they not?
Imagine being wheeled by an old majestic redwood for the first time, or past a mother duck leading her teeny ducklings all in a line. Picture discovering the previously unseen bustle of a farmer’s market, all the colors of the harvest and the noise of families choosing their own nourishment. Consider the beach, the endless margins of white sand and blue water and the seam where they burst into each other. What would that look like to someone who hadn't yet learned to take it for granted?
Or even better, imagine being tired after a day spent out adventuring and coming back to the place and people you haven't stopped seeing yet for what they are: your home and your family.
In the rush and bustle that is everyday life, being reminded to take your time and find wonder is a breath of fresh air, a reprieve, and a gift given from our children back to us. Yes, our family outings might take longer but I’ve never looked forward to them more either. So, yes, in that, they were right.
Having a baby does change everything.
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