“Do you have a village, mama?”
I walked in not knowing what to expect. What do 16-22 month olds look/act/talk like, again? I can’t quite remember, it’s been so long. I settled into my chair ready to observe a parent/child class and interview for a teaching position. I quickly began to remember their faces, smiles, cries and overall adorableness.
A lavender smell gently wafted through the room and although it is highly likely an allergic reaction was to blame, tears began to sting my eyes. What? No you can’t cry at a job interview.
There’s no crying at job interviews!
It’s the fragrance that is causing my tear ducts to well up, I assure myself. It must be those baby cheeks making me long for the days when my kids were toddlers. No, I am not that sentimental. Don’t try and kid yourself, I concede. I know exactly which memory is being triggered.
It’s her. And her, and her and her over there and that one and this one too.
It’s the mom. The young mom.
Her smooth skin tells me it’s only been a few years since high school or college. Her comfy clothes tell me she is in the trenches of motherhood day in and out. Her smile tells me this 45 minute class may be the highlight of her week. Her ability to engage in lighthearted or deep conversation with a classmate she met ten seconds ago, tells me these women belong to a painfully initiated sorority. Her flustered explanation of needing to run to the car to grab a diaper tells me she has a lot on her mind and she is an expert problem solver.
Sure, the 17-month-old’s smile melted my heart as he kept peeking at me, but it was her face. The young, beautiful face that caught my attention.
This is her village. This is her tribe. We can laugh all we want at our society’s desire to create mini-mozarts, mini-einsteins, mini-prodigies with all the classes and enrichment programs, but I see this group of women and toddlers the same way I would see a group of women with babies strapped to their backs working, singing in the fields as they till the land together. Chatting while weaving rugs in the hot sun. Shelling beans and talking story while little ones play nearby..
The classes we sign up for, especially when our children are very young, this is the modern parent’s village.
She spends the majority of her time alone, in her house, connecting with the world the best way she can. It might be through the phone, Internet, classes, park days, jobs, knowing nods to other moms at Target.
These mothers reminded me of that time of my life. I always wondered if I would look back and miss toddlerhood, regret not “enjoying every moment” and long for the days of naps, diaper changes, Cheerios, playgrounds and “Blue’s Clues.” Turns out, I don’t miss it.
I remember it through every part of my being and I know how achingly lonely and boring it could be at times. But I also remember that joy when you hear him say, “Top” for the first time, the way their bodies immediately dance to the sound of music and the way they snuggle into you when they are shy.
I also know how important friendships are and I am glad these women have each other every Thursday at 9 am.
When I look out at them, I don’t feel regret, or longing for the good ol’ days. I look out at these young women singing, dancing and guiding and I fight back the tears. These women are warriors. I hope they never question their value or worth. I did, and now I know that was my biggest mistake.