Bye, Bye Babies

Today our family piled into the Swagger Wagon and did the tourist thing-New England style. We drove to North Conway, New Hampshire and gorged ourselves in one of the quaint little restaurants in town before taking off for some leaf peeping and a climb up the Mount Washington Auto Road. For lunch, we inadvertently landed in a restaurant that Dave and I ate in when we used to live in North Conway. That was before we were married…when Dave indulged my need to run away and came with me. The one and only time I ran and finally bumped into myself… the real me, but that’s a story for another day.

As we sat in what was once our romantic little Italian restaurant, we were simultaneously sent back in time and smacked in the face with the present. Our little ambiance-filled spot has been replaced by an Irish pub/sports bar and restaurant. Dave and I marveled that the bones of the place remain the same and located “our” table. We shared a wistful glance as we silently recalled the times we were able to eat at a restaurant without our brood of tiny, poorly mannered people. With a shrug of the shoulders we hunkered down and braced ourselves for a public family meal. Interestingly enough, I think that we turned a corner and caught a glimpse of what the future holds.

North Conway, Winter
The kids are now 6, 4 and 20 months. Our older two quietly chatted with each other and colored. They ate their lunch (with utensils) and stayed seated. Dare I say that it was actually pleasant? As a family we’ve taken to skipping meal time in any type of public dining facility. When we had just one child, Dave and I still dined like royalty and Joe was our tiny little wing man. That kid ate in some of the best restaurants in Boston! Two children brought challenges; we started opting for places with talking animals rather than forego a precious meal out. However, attempting to sit in a restaurant with three small children is just idiotic. We realized that it was time to let go of the family “date”.
Something changed at that little restaurant in North Conway. David and I were able to hold a conversation! Typically, over the past 20 months we were so absorbed in baby stuff that we forgot to slow down and take a good hard look at her. In our minds, Kate still required the attention that an infant demands. After all, she’s the baby and babies need constant care…bottles, baby food, diaper changes and constant entertainment. But not today! No sir, today it became apparent that Kate has left babyhood behind and somewhere along the line she became an honest to goodness toddler.

Kate climbed into a highchair, picked up a crayon and scribbled. She passed crayons to her sister. She spoke her Kate language (that I never want to stop). She drank lemonade from a cup and fed herself lunch like a proper albeit, poorly mannered little human. Upon command from Joe and Gwen, she yelled, “BUTT!” We all dissolved into giggles and the ignored people on our left who were staring at us. (Like their kid never yelled the word butt in public.)

As I sat in that restaurant pondering pre-marriage Dave and Kelli, I was struck by the fact that here we were, 11 years later with our three children. We are a family of five. It all happened with lightening speed! Weren’t we just sitting in this restaurant planning to elope? Didn’t we just move to Boston? Dave just took the bar exam. It seems like only days ago that I sat submerged in our bathroom’s deep old bathtub, trying to escape from the heat of summer and the pain caused by my 9th month of pregnancy. We only just had Joe… then Gwen. I was just rolling them around Brighton in their stroller. We only recently fled the city to that big old house in New Hampshire…Kate was born just a few months ago, right? How quickly time seems to have moved when I view it from this direction.

Time has tricked me again. My last baby is officially gone. Time has stolen her baby smell and her exquisite milk-drunk, floppy newborn slumber. How quickly I have forgotten the colic that caused hours of painful crying each evening. Honestly, from this angle I can’t recall being really exhausted from sleep interrupted by nursing. From this direction, my view is made up of those sweet, fleeting hours when I held my babies on my chest and felt their warm, quick breath on my neck. I clung to those sleepy times with Kate, knowing that the future would lend a euphoric dream like quality to my memories. Oh, how I loved those sleepy, fantastic smelling newborns and their wobbling, fuzzy little heads under my lips.

Our little people are growing up. Our little baby is becoming a girl…complete with some new pigtails and a budding sense of humor. Goodbye sweet, tiny baby. I’ll never forget you. Welcome to the world, and by the way, you have two really incredible siblings to spend your life with. In the meantime, I’m going to try and store away a perfect memory of each and every one of you, just as you are right now.