Birth Trauma and Birthdays

My heart is racing even considering typing this post, because writing it means thinking about it, and thinking about it means recalling it, and recalling it is just horrific. Isn’t that a terrible thing to say in regards to the birth of your first — and much wanted — child?

Despite my trepidation, I’ll keep diving — securely clinging to my safety rope to the present so as not to get sucked into the dark abyss of recollection — knowing someone somewhere needs to know they’re not broken or alone or wrong. That they needn’t shoulder the guilt others hoist upon them. That there is hope. That it does get better. It does.

I began having contractions on July18, 2011. Type-A and working from home on bedrest, I was still emailing and updating project implementation spreadsheets as I winced and grunted. Around midday, I stood to try to “walk off the pains” and I wound up on my knees, moaning, clutching the kitchen counter. I called my OB, whose office was closed for lunch, and left a message for her telling her that my husband and I were heading to the hospital.

Many hours and a traumatic birth later (story here), it was 3:36AM on July 19th. I had my daughter. We still had another round of resuscitation yet to go, a NICU stay, and some painful physical healing for my daughter and myself. But, it was over.

At least outwardly.

Inwardly, that event still haunts me 8 years later. I don’t sleepwalk or have baby-in-peril nightmares as I once did. I don’t get stuck seated on the toilet due to my physical wounds or cry during sitz baths as I once did. I don’t get faint or stop breathing at the mention of birth anymore. I don’t struggle to pull myself out of the vivid, palpable, horrific memories as I once did.

I do still find myself inexplicably tense, angry, flighty, and agitated as my daughter’s birthday approaches. Unwaveringly, I will look at the clock throughout the day of July 18th and be transported back to that Labor and Delivery room. I will get visions of the blank dry erase board that absorbed the sounds of my sobbing. And every year I awake at 3:36AM on July 19th and I shudder then sigh. But now I can return to sleep, the inky black bleed of the trauma now kept at bay. Throughout the day I will hide my ragged and raw emotions to celebrate my daughter. I will pretend all is well. This is “her day” after all. But the fact that I am capable of doing this is proof of healing not lost on me.

As real as my trauma is to me, birth traumas and birth-related PTSD like mine are dismissed. Shamed. Birth is positioned as beautiful and natural, as something to be regarded as sacred, spiritual, superhuman… not potentially lethal. Some of those who, like me, struggle(d) to conceive hoist their own pain upon mothers with birth trauma, insisting that the mother’s pain is negated by the birth of a child and wholly necessitates gratitude. Some say, “all births are tough” and shrug off the mothers’ pain. Some hold a sense of competition, perhaps rooted in self-preservation, to present their own birth story as more challenging or painful or trying that others’, which fuels them to discount other mothers’ traumas. Then there is the sect that views birth as an unsavory topic of conversation altogether and force mothers into stoic silence to quell their sensitivities. (As someone who openly discusses pelvic floor health or menstrual cups, digestive woes or breastfeeding with the same casual fluidity as chatting about Target purchases, this prudish leaning is a foreign mindset.)

The intent to shift public perspective of birth from medical to metaphysical is lovely. Beautiful. And yet the reverberations can hum as callous to those who do not share the glowing birth experience.

As hard as I try, I cannot perceive birth as anything but dangerous. As something to be brutally survived for the love of a child. Birth nearly killed my daughter and me; to me, its lethal potential, its dark and scarring qualities are unquestionable. As much as I wish this wasn’t true, it is. And I am not alone.

Mothers are expected to hide, bury, forget their birth traumas and heal physically and emotionally from the harrowing feat without perceptible scars. To bounce back in all ways. They are expected to tell and retell their children their birth stories. They are tasked with ignoring any of the day’s ghosts in favor of feigning joyous celebration. They are expected to feel sheer elation and abounding love at the mere glint of a birth recollection. Anything less is shameful, selfish, weak.

Any utterances regarding birth struggles will inevitably be met with, “but at least you had a baby” or “you should be grateful for your child.” A soldier’s PTSD would not be met with dismissive responses of, “you should be happy you got to serve” and “war is beautiful.” So, why are mothers’?

Eight years later, I am nearly a decade removed from my birth trauma. My physical wounds are long healed. My emotional wounds are in a state of healing. I am far from where I once was; happier, more present, capable of recalling without falling in. I am here. I am healing. I am trying. I am stronger than I ever knew.

It is better. So am I.

Now, to celebrate my daughter.

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Judgment and Motherhood

Judgment. Man, like cold germs and cauliflower, it’s everywhere. No matter what you do or where you go, it’s there. But motherhood has provided me the biggest lesson in terms of dealing with it.

I remember the initial sting of judgment when, as I struggled through a shopping list at Target, my fiercely iron-willed then-2.5-year-old daughter tantrumed loudly in the store. No matter what I did, what I said, or how calmly I kept our errand moving, she persisted. Pushing the cart containing my purchases and my then-1-year-old son, my face grew red hot with anxious embarrassment. I didn’t even want to look up to see passersby. Then, a stranger stopped me and said that I needed to give my daughter a spanking. That was not a helpful statement. His face was creased with judgment, not softened by empathy or warmed by the desire to aid. He simply disapproved of my child’s behavior and my reaction to it. So he chose to share his internal negativity with me. Sadly, I was too novice then to refuse to accept it. I didn’t realize that that was an option.

Back then, I internally crumbled and seethed at the unsolicited input. I allowed the unwelcome negativity to weigh on me, to tear at me, to affect me. However, another kid and five years of parenting later, such a situation would elicit a different response.

Pre-kids me was constantly on alert for perceived or real external judgment. I truly cared what others thought of me. A side-eye or sneer would erode me. Fast-forward to three kids later, the sheer frequency and variety of judgment I have and do receive has granted me perspective I wished I’d owned years ago. Though I am aware and at times irritated by outside judgment, it in no way topples me as it once did. If anything, it enables me to properly respond to the judgment and assess the critiquer’s appropriate place within my life.

My response now: release the judgment and give space.

An outsider’s unsolicited judgment is and should be ineffectual. What does their opinion mean, particularly if it is an ill- or under-informed assessment? Often judgmental comments are rooted in incomplete information, lack of empathy, competitive drive, ego disruptions, and/or a tendency towards viewing the negative. All of those stimulating factors disqualify the accuracy of the judger’s perspective. The individual is unknowingly looking through a clouded window.

For example, before I had kids of my own, I judged parents with abandon. I assumed I could do it so much better than they could or that I somehow knew something that they didn’t. Then I became a parent. I swiftly realized I had known NOTHING. Those years of caretaking for my didabled brother, babysitting for children of all ages, nannying… nope. It lent me no meaningful insight. I thought it had — I truly did — but I just plain did not know a thing, and I can say with relative certainty that any parent who has made such an assumption themself will say the same thing.

I had never actually been a parent, so my information was inherently incomplete, flawed, inaccurate. Meaning, all of those judgments and assumptions I’d made over the years reflected more on me and my utter lack of awareness of myself and my limited knowledge than it did on those I was assessing.

That’s right. All of those negative ideas I had about others — yeah, well — those parents were the rubber and kid-free me was the glue and all of my foolish judgments were bouncing off of them and sticking right to me. I was unknowingly making a royal ass of myself. I did not know what I did not know and, boy, it showed.

The same notion goes for fellow parents judging other parents. One cannot possibly know the ins and out, before-during-and-after, detailed information that would enable a fully formed assessment to be made. Judging a fellow parent’s approach or their child’s behavior is not only unhelpful and unsupportive, but entirely pointless. If you’re concerned, offer support not critique. If a mom looks stressed, offer help or even a kind smile, not an eyeroll or a sneering whisper to your friend. Judgment just isn’t the right choice… don’t be human glue!

Now, a parent of a 7-, 6-, and 3-year-old, I have experienced judgement from self (SO much from self), family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and a plethora of strangers. As a result of that wealth of exposure, I have realized the value in distancing myself from those whose natural inclination is to critique, especially those who have not yet realized the limitations of their life experiences in granting them clarity.

I should neither give credence to judgers’ snark, nor welcome them with regularity into my life. They and their judgment should be granted distance. I deserve better.

And so, I not only release the individual’s judgment as ill-advised drivel and a consequence of their own struggles, but I release the individual. I allow them to drift and place a self-protective partition between them and me. If someone is slinging arrows, it’s only reasonable to back away and raise one’s shield.

And so, my judgment response goes something like this.

If someone takes issue with my sparkly son’s feminine flair aesthetic? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone balks at my parenting rules or situation-specific behavior expectations? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone comments negatively on my littlest’s penchant for mud puddles or stick digging or worm finding? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone takes exception to my “extended” breastfeeding or my former efforts as a breastmilk donor? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone provides unsolicited punishment advice or vocally disapproves of my parenting approach? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone judges my children’s behavior or my response to it without knowledge of the before, during, or after of the day? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone disapproves of our dietary choices or religious practices or education choices or daily routines? I release the judgment and give space.

If someone consistently finds fault in my children and/or me? I release the judgment and give space.

I am a bridge-builder, not a bridge-burner, but even with that inclination I deserve to parent my children to the best of MY ability and MY judgment without fearing outside snark. And, as satisfying as a razor sharp comeback may be, there’s no use in starting arguments or lashing out, especially with those who innately critique the world; they simply do not perceive the cloudiness of the window through which they view everyone and everything around them. So, I breathe out and move on in the knowledge that their judgment is a reflection of them and not me.

Parents, I wish you freedom from judgment and, if it does find you, I wish you the ability to release both it and the misguided critic. Step back and raise your shield. You matter too.

Keep doing your best. Keep loving your flawed children with your flawed human heart. Keep surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

My Major Parenting Struggle

I love my daughter but there is a certain aspect of her beautifully determined and bright personality that utterly torments me as her parent: her fierce competitive spirit.

“Being competitive is a great quality!” Some say. That’s true of most any personality trait, but the problem is me. A drive to compete with others is a mindset that clashes with so much of my own perspective that I’m constantly stumbling when determining how best to parent my daughter as an individual. How do you parent a child who has tendencies that oppose so mightily with your own? How do you support, and guide that child without attempting to change her?

I am a “gardener” parent. Meaning, I don’t impose my life goals on my children. I don’t try to change my children to suit my dreams for them. I don’t insist they participate in certain extracurriculars or feign specific interests. I don’t insist they fit a certain mold. Instead, I revel in their unique goals, skills, struggles, and hobbies while endeavoring to guide them towards a positive, healthy, responsible, kind, resilient life that leads to good decisions and a relatively clear conscience (I say, “relatively” because they’re human and we all make mistakes and make regrettable choices, but hopefully we learn from these pitfalls.) However, I struggle being a “gardener” when it comes to competition.

I am not competitive with others, though I am fiercely competitive with myself. My daughter is competitive with everyone including herself. Whereas I rarely perceive competition between myself and others, and if there is a competition I likely bow out, she views life as a competition and endeavors to win. Always. This means that to her everyone is a possible competitor for some unspoken victory (or defeat) and every situation has a competitive component, of which I am entirely unaware and incapable of truly grasping.

I can’t fathom finding joy in winning so that another may suffer a loss, especially since that individual would — in all likelihood — cherish the win more than I ever would. Conversely, my daughter craves the thrill of winning and laments even the smallest of losses. She comes to me for solace after losing a real or perceived competition and I struggle — I truly struggle — to empathize. I feel guilty for not knowing how to muster deep comfort for her in her competition-based upset. But I can’t. All I can think is, “STOP ALREADY WITH THE COMPETITION!” And then, in hearing my inner voice, I feel guilty.

Competition can certainly bring about good, but it can foster the opposite too. Kind, loving people can become selfish and brutish, trampling those they strive to overtake. Secure, happy people become self-conscious or judgmental towards others in some perceived ongoing worldwide competition. However competition can also drive people to do great things and accomplish astonishing goals. It can inspire and fuel. It can lead to discoveries and growth, in addition to turmoil and callousness. As with most anything, it is simultaneously positive and negative. A true gray area.

And so I can’t in good conscience dismantle or parent away my daughter’s competitive nature, just as I wouldn’t strive to erase my middle son’s sparkly flair for the creative or my youngest son’s fearless athleticism. I can try to help my daughter navigate the world healthfully given her competitive worldview. I can try to give her coping techniques for inevitable losses and graciousness for wins. I can encourage competition with self to balance competition with others and encourage a thoughtful awareness of others to stave off self-centeredness. I can build her self-esteem and self-worth so that the outcomes of her perpetual perceived competitions do not dictate her self-worth. But I cannot make her into what and who she is not. Nor should I.

So I’ll keep struggling and trying and failing and trying again. Because I’m a human parenting humans.

Wish me luck!

20-Minute Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Gluten-free, cruelty-free, entirely plant-based, and fast… doesn’t sound much like the deliciously heavy, meaty, time-consuming traditional shepherd’s pie. But it is. And it’s delicious!

This is all you’ll need.

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This is what you’ll have at the end of the meal. It’s a crowd pleaser.

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20-Minute Vegan Shepherd’s Pie 

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INGREDIENTS:

9oz Ready-to-eat (or leftover) lentils

16oz Frozen peas and carrots

20oz Frozen riced cauliflower

2-3 cup spaghetti sauce

1/4 cup Earth Balance buttery spread

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pour ready-to-eat  (or leftover) lentils into a small sauce pan with enough spaghetti sauce to cover. Cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until warmed through.

While lentils heat, microwave riced cauliflower according to package instructions. Remove from microwave and set aside to cool slightly.

Pour peas and carrots into glass casserole baking dish (if it’s microwave safe), add a few dollop of Earth Balance on top of the veggies, and microwave for 2 minutes.

While the veggies heat, pour the cooked riced cauliflower and a dollop of Earth Balance to a blender. Blend until it creates a mashed potato texture (roughly 30 seconds.)

Layer the lentils on top of the peas and carrots, then smooth a layer of mashed cauliflower on top of the lentils.

Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes.

*Optional: Remove shepherd’s pie from oven after 10 minutes and turn the oven to broil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the cauliflower and place under the broiler until golden.

Let stand for 2-5 minutes to cool and set.

Enjoy!

Surviving the “F’ing 4s”

“I love my middle son but he’s driving me NUTS!” I recently vented to a dear mom friend. “F’ing 4s,” my friend said, “that’s what we call them.” So aptly named!

Between dropping his nap — I know, we had a great run so I can’t complain –, finally ditching sleep time pacifiers, and turning 4-years old all in the same day, the last couple months have been rough with my middle son. I love him, he’s a sweet kid, but O…M…G! There are some moments in the day when I understand why animals eat their young. (I kid… sort of.)

Not listening, pushing boundaries, acting out, (poorly) lying, acting hyper then crashing into tiredness… each afternoon is a whirlwind of frustration. Fortunately, I survived my daughter’s 4s, so I can handle this.

“Their body is ready to stop napping but their brain isn’t there yet,” a friend once advised me when I asked how to safely pull my daughter and myself through the nasty nap-dropping phase and my friend responded, “Once their brain catches up, things get easier.” I asked how long that’d take, expecting the standard two-week phase timeline.”One month,” my friend replied as I choked on my own mortality, “but more like six months until you’re really out of the woods.” I think I blacked out for a bit there. Six freaking months??? Of demonic tantrums and mood swings, swirling energy plummeting into raging exhaustion. The stuff they don’t — but really should — detail in sex-ed. Forget VD and UTIs, talk real deal potty-training and the “F’ing 4s”, that’ll tame the teen libido.

My middle son doesn’t have the stamina or ferocity to maintain a meltdown anywhere close to my first child’s, but he is still checking that “F’ing 4s” box with a heavy-handed tick mark in his own slightly less mind-melting way.

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How can you tell how bad the day has been? Simply look up on top of the armoire in our entryway. If there’s a rainbow wig up there: it’s been dicey. If there’s a rainbow wig and a dress-up crown: there was major suckage. If there’s a rainbow wig, a dress-up crown, and a mermaid doll up there: buy me wine and run.

And so we survive this unglamorous, wholly exhausting phase trying to savor the scattered good bits amidst the mayhem. We’ll come out stronger for the struggle, but right now we’re just trudging through.

We’re imperfectly parenting our imperfect children because we’re human, and that’s what we do. Surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

Pumping at Work

Recently, my husband ran across my old pumping bag from my corporate days. The sack has remained untouched for two years. It is a reminder of a past life, a previous self, a completed journey.

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As a part-time working mom with two kids under two years apart, I pumped at work for three years. I was fortunate enough to have an office that provided a lactation room, and a relatively cushy one at that. For the lactating associates among the 2,000 employees in the building, there was a room near the nurse’s office that held eight curtained nursing alcoves, each outfitted with a desk chair, a table, an electrical outlet, and sanitizing wipes. Six of these alcoves sported a hospital grade pump. (If you chose to use one of the communal pumps, you would need supply your own pump heads, bottles, flanges, membranes, tubing, and piston. Otherwise, you could use your own pump.)

The room also housed two small refrigerators with tiny freezer compartments, a sink with dish soap, paper towels, a bookshelf on which you could store your pumping bag and donate or borrow a magazine, and a donation drawer where one could generally find old, sanitized or never-used pump parts, storage bottles, sanitizing bags, etc. That drawer got me out of many a “mom brain” bind when I had forgotten an invaluable pump piece.

With a long commute and babies at home (who I craved to be with instead of sitting in a cubicle farm), that pumping room became my place of solace in the corporate environment. I would enter the quiet room and smell the scent of disinfectant and sugary breastmilk, knowing I had 20-30 minutes to myself. Sure, I was hooked up to a machine but it was brief solitude amidst an otherwise hectic life. I could flip through fashion magazines, read a book, scroll through photos of my little ones, scan social media, or just sit. It was MY time. There was no other such time in the day like that for me.

When others would moan about pumping and ask how I pumped so diligently, my advice was always the same: 1) make it a priority, 2) make it “you” time, 3) remember this is a medical need, nothing less.

1) Make it a priority: View your pumping sessions as if they’re a meeting with the C.E.O. In the corporate world it is easy for pumping to get pushed to the back burner, but breastmilk supply is not so forgiving. Push back a pumping session once for someone, and you can bet that will become the norm. I left meetings early or temporarily to pump. I blocked my calendar to secure my pumping sessions. They must be a top priority.

2) Make it “you” time: if you make the pumping sessions enjoyable, not only will you be less likely to skip them but you’ll be more likely to produce more milk. Just as “happy cows make better milk”, so do happy mamas. Read, text, meditate, knit, do kegels… do whatever it is that makes you feel happy when you’re pumping. It needn’t be a burden. If you have to work while pumping, go ahead, but relaxing is best. The less tense you are the sooner your milk letdown will start and the more milk you’ll make.

3) Remember this is a medical need, nothing less: never allow someone to make you feel guilty for pumping. No one would dare berate a diabetic for taking time to check his/her blood sugar or administer an insulin shot. This is no different. A skipped pumping session can not only be the potential for mastitis but could lessen the food you have available for your child. Over time, frequently missed sessions can deplete your supply. Never let someone stop you from pumping.

To cope with business demands while maintaining an every 2-3 hour pumping schedule, think rigid flexibility. If you must attend a meeting during your pumping time slot, be upfront and say you must pump then but ask if you can call in. If it’s a long meeting that overlaps with your pumping time, step out to pump then return to the meeting afterwards. If you have an off-site meeting at a hotel, call ahead and speak to the front desk and ask for pumping accommodations. More often than not, the associates will gladly assist you. If you run into an associate who is not helpful, ask to speak with the General Manager, who will undoubtedly accommodate your reasonable request. If you have to be at a non-hotel off-site location, get a car adapter and pump in your car. If you must travel, bring a nursing cover and pump on the train or plane. You have options!

Pumping at work is possible but does require effort, just as all things worthwhile do. You can do this. You’re a mom.

 

 

Stranded on Mom Island

Sometime around the 1.5-year postpartum mark I lose myself. It has happened with each of my three children. It is as if overnight I became some unrecognizable mom-droid and I can no longer relate to the non-mom world around me.

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Mom-of-3 me

Washable oversized tops, nursing camis, and stretchy leggings are my uniform. High heels collect dust, as my sneakers gather playground mulch.

I pick up formerly enjoyable fashion magazines and lifestyle publications only to flip past ads and articles, photos of sultry women and pristine homes with which I can in no way identify. I surf through TV shows and YouTube videos, none to which I can relate. I am on “Mom Island.”

Old photos show a version of me that I can hardly remember. That young woman who wore heels every day, flat-ironed her hair, and slept until 11am on weekends? She’s less of a memory and more of an illustration.

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Pre-mom me

I don’t resent being on my island. Actually, I have some phenomenal mom friends who are similarly stranded. All of us have grown and shifted, grayed and stretched far from who and where we used to be. Despite being happy with who we have become, we’re no less lost.

What should interest me? What fashion choices actually suit me? Can I converse without mentioning my children… or poop? What’s my non-maternal purpose? Who am I when I step out into the world without my bumbling brood loudly announcing to the world that “I AM MOM”? Am I a mom if the world cannot immediately see I am one? Of course!! But it’s no less unsettling.

I feel naked, incomplete without a snot-nosed tot on my hip and a youngster or two incessantly yammering around my legs. It is as if I have been a life-long, proud natural redhead and awoke one morning with an embony mane. I am still me… but yet not.

And so I will go about my kid-centric days occasionally grasping a few moments of solitude during which I might try to find myself, try to determine how to relate to the surrounding non-mom world. Or maybe I’ll just enjoy a hot beverage and some silence before someone calls me to wipe his or her butt.

 

 

Choosing to Savor

It’s 40 minutes into naptime and here I am pinned beneath my slumbering 1.5-year-old in a dark room. I could be resistant, I could be irritated, or I could choose to savor.

After checking all of the boxes for a solid toddler nap — an active morning playdate, a hearty lunch, a fresh diaper, and a belly full of breastmilk — I figured this would be a simple part of the daily routine. Mommy hubris strikes again!

After my toddler drifted into a milky slumber, I tried transferring him to his crib. No dice. As soon as he left my arms, his eyes sprung open and he wailed that heartbreaking cry of abandonment. Two more attempts. Two more failures. Finally, I caved.

Defeated by my own offspring, I picked up my tot, grabbed his fuzzy blanket, and sat down in his glider. I allowed him to nuzzle and curl into me, so that he may drift back to sleep.

And so, as I sit here rocking my sleeping son, feeling his blanket-bundled weight in my arms and his soft sleepy breath against my cheek, I have three choices: 1) I can continue to fight a losing battle to transfer him into his crib, 2) I can resentfully rock with my little one and lament the break I’m missing, or 3) I can enjoy the moment. This time, I’m choosing option #3.

At 17-months-old, this may be his last time wanting to nap in my arms. He’s more of a climber than a cuddler, so these tender moments are likely to be distant memories once he’s weaned. What seems bothersome now will be deeply craved in not-so-distant time.

And so I sit here in a dark room holding my toddler, savoring the moment. Enjoying my growing boy.

The World through a Toddler’s Eyes

To see life through the eyes of a 1.5-year-old must be a wondrous thing. A simple stroll is akin to an amusement park when all the world is new

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Yesterday afternoon my youngest and I went for a neighborhood walk. Down the sidewalk we strolled, his chubby toddler hand in mine. “Wow!” He exclaimed, pointing at a service van parked in a neighbor’s driveway. We stopped and admired the van, then returned to our ambling.

“Up!” He pointed with a pudgy finger. A hawk flew above us in the autumn sun. Then, my toddler took a few steps and found a stick. He drew in a deep, dramatic breath and held his prized find.

Every few feet he’d plop down on the pavement without warning and poke at the grass with his stick. I’d pause for a bit then gently return him to his feet, and on we walked.

A delivery truck pulled into the neighborhood. “Choo-choo!” He gasped, since trains and trucks are interchangeable in his 1.5-year-old mind.  Then we turned the corner: the mail truck! He froze, jaw open, staring in awe. The mail truck drove on and so we resumed our journey.

A buzzing whir pulsed through the air. A neighbor was using an air compressor in his garage. How fascinating! We paused briefly so he could catch a glimpse.

On we strolled. A broad rottweiler with a vigilant owner ambled towards us. The dog’s owner commanded his well-fed pet to sit as we walked by. “Dog!” my companion called. “Dog! Dog!” He wrenched his head around and plopped himself square in the center of the sidewalk, wanting to do nothing else but play with the sizeable canine who was at least a head taller than him. The dog had plodded his way down the sidewalk, entirely disinterested in my toddler. He was on his own expedition; we needed to return to our own.

I scooped up my partner and pointed at the colorful leaves. “Yellow,” I said, “yellow leaves.” A gust of wind rattled the branch, sending shivers through the dry golden leaves. He was delighted.

I set him down on the sidewalk, held his hand, and on we went. He stopped. “Uhh! Uhh!” He grunted and pointed. Yellow spinning pinwheels in the neighbor’s garden. He pulled away from me and marched head first up the driveway. I collected him and tried to walk him back to the sidewalk. Not happening. He shook away from my hand and charged through the grass. “Nope! Not your yard.” I said. He fussed and twisted in my arms. Mean mommy. Time to head home.

The woosh of an airplane refocused his attention. “Up! Up there!” He pointed at the plane. He looked on happily from his perch in my arms. I carried him for a bit, he cuddled in close, and I doused him with kisses. Knowing, in time, such affection would be entirely dismissed.

I saw some fallen leaves beside the sidewalk and set him down. He stomped and crunched, savoring the texture and sound. On we went. Another airplane flew over head, then another. He was equally enthralled by both.

By the time we arrived home, I had soaked in every bit of my growing boy that I could. And he had glimpsed a neighborhood full of fascinating finds. To see the world through his eyes must be marvellous. I am fortunate to see him see it all.