This morning, I popped M. in the stroller and walked him the three quarters of a mile to the doula offices for their Movers & Shakers meeting. As the first babies they ushered into the world became toddlers, the community of parents who had worked with them wanted to continue meeting with each other beyond the New Parents hangout, and even some of the babes who had not technically aged out of the New Parents Hangout group got so mobile and handsy that the parents of said babes (mine included) started to wonder how safe it was for the little ones to be exposed to our friendly acrobats. So the doulas started a group for older, more mobile babies up to age two. Michael and I make it out about once every three weeks. This is a much better attendance rate than we had for the New Parents Hangout, probably because as he’s gotten older and more mobile I’ve lost any illusions I had about being able to get work done as he played, so we might as well go play with other families.
So, as I said - this morning, I popped him in the stroller - and when I say “popped” I mean that I strapped him in his five-point harness, ensured he had plenty of pretzels in the cupholder, realized that I had left his water bottle on the floor, picked up his water bottle, put that in the grown-up’s cupholder (because again, M’s was full of pretzels) and headed out to the doula office.
Michael was the only toddler in attendance, but he had the time of his life playing with the seven-year-old son of one of the owners. As the Movers and Shakers time ended and time for the New Parents Hangout approached, other families started to arrive, including one family with a very new baby.
I told Michael it was almost time to leave. I sang him the relevant Daniel Tiger song. (There is a relevant Daniel Tiger song for almost every toddler/preschooler parenting moment. A mom used the same “It’s almost time to stop” one on a playground recently and when I said, “Hey, M! We know that song!” she replied, “Daniel Tiger is my co-parent.”) I re-filled his cupholder, this time with veggie straws. I strapped him into the stroller and asked him to wave goodbye to everybody.
As I was strapping him in the stroller, I remembered my earliest New Parents Hangout, sitting with this tiny, fragile, incoherent, precious person in his huge carrier, not knowing how to do anything yet. I imagined what that version of myself would think watching me go through this process of getting Michael in the stroller, settling him in, getting him out the door.
I decided she would think, “Wow. That lady can parent a toddler so effortlessly. That’s amazing.”
And it was beautiful to have that dual perspective, to remember myself as a newbie and be able to look upon my expert self, shepherding this relatively giant creature, having him say goodbye to the doulas.
Then getting to the door and realizing I’d left my backpack in the classroom, then going back and getting it and truly heading out, then not realizing my phone had fallen out of the stroller in the parking lot until I’d walked a couple hundred feet past where it happened, then running back to find it while praying a car hadn’t run over it, then sighing with relief after finding it lying on the ground unharmed, then continuing the walk home.
These things keep us humble in the moments when we would be proud. I think it’s nice to be able to feel both at once.
And, of course, observing this moment is a nice reminder that whomever I’m looking at and thinking, “Wow, she really has it together!” is probably struggling in some way I can’t see, and that potentially any time I’m struggling, there’s somebody looking at me who thinks I’m doing a great job.