Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"It's Nice to See You So Happy" Plus Soak it Up

There's something I'd like to get off my chest. I recently saw a woman I knew years ago, when I was a single girl. I had not seen her in at least a decade, probably longer. After we chatted and she met my kids, and we were saying goodbye, she said, "It's nice to see you so happy."

Am I the only person in the world who would take this statement "the wrong way"? I felt weirdly judged and evaluated. What was her point? Was it that back in the day I was a miserable person? I do recall a lot of crying jags and bouts of unrequited love, to which she may have been privy. Or was her point, simply, "it's nice to see you so happy"?

Saying "it's nice to see you are so happy" to a glass-half-empty person like ME is just hilarious. Happy? Moi? I am, after all, taking what was (possibly) a well-meaning statement "the wrong way." Clearly she has not been reading this blog (where anything is cause for lamentation), and I hope to God she doesn't start with this post.

I am now abruptly changing the subject, and if this were a magazine or a newspaper, there would be a subhead. Pretend there is one here that says: Soak It Up. I'm perpetually obsessed with how quickly my kids are growing up. I know the previous statement is a cliche, but that's what we fantastically boring bloggers traffic in.

When my son Dale was born in 2000, my husband's stepfather Martin gave us a piece of wisdom which we did not fully appreciate: "You will turn around and he will be graduating from high school." I was skeptical, buried as I was in round the clock on-demand breast feeding, co-sleeping and never-ending diaper changes. "It's going to happen just like that," Martin affirmed. And he was right.

Ten years ago my boy would run to me shrieking with joy the minute I came home, and I would scoop him up and squeeze and kiss him to his great delight. "Soak it up," my husband would say. "Soak it up." All that unconditional toddler adoration. Now, if my son sees me on the street, he will raise an eyebrow if I am lucky. He will also remain silent when a kid asks "who was that weird lady who said hello to you?" It hurts way more than the other kind of unrequited love, even though I know that under all the surliness, the love is still there. Buried. 

Today on the way to the post office I saw a woman with a baby in a stroller and I had this strong desire to stop her and tell her, "I know you don't believe this right now, you with the baby spit up drying on your shirt, but this is a blip in your life that will be over before you know it. SOAK IT UP. Don't make the same mistake I did."

That's what I will do in exactly one hour when I collect my daughter from the school bus, because she still acknowledges me in public (although forbids me to dance in public), and she will snuggle on the couch and talk and talk.

My mother has a framed childhood picture of me and my brother. It's the only professional picture of the two of us, black and white with a clean white backdrop. He is maybe two, wearing a sailor suit and smiling happily. I am in a sleeveless dress, 2 1/2 years older, with my hands on my knees, eager to please. Once, years ago, my mother saw me looking at the picture. "It was so nice then," she said wistfully. "And I didn't appreciate what I had."

Does anyone?


  1. I wish I could post a gif that says "THIS" with flashing animations and a bunch of fingers raised to point at your article. Instead I'll just say that my daughter is 7, and THIS.

  2. "Does anyone"? I wish I could appreciate everything my soon-to-be-five daughter has meant to me since she was born. But life goes on; there are a thousand things going on at the same time and you just go with the flow, trying to make things work day after day. I know it'll be a shock when I realize she's not a child anymore.

  3. I just read this post, ran down the street and up the hill to my mom's house, tears in my eyes, and sat on the couch in her arms and apologized for all of the times in my teen years that I wished she would just pretend that I didn't exist in public. Thank you. xo

    1. That is so sweet, and aren't you and your mom lucky that you live close enough to do that. Thanks for telling me.

  4. This post breaks my heart. My kids are 5 and 2.5 and I know what you say it true. Any advice for those of us with young kids now? Besides, I mean, Soak It Up. How do we do this? In practice I mean.

    It's funny, I am already nostalgic for these days with my kids, even though they are happening right now if that makes sense.

  5. I have a 15 month old, and this is a wonderful reminder to stay in the moment with him. It's so fleeting, and I'm already feeling pre-pangs of the heartbreak of that "unrequited love" as he grows up and away from me. I know it's what I want for him - to be independent - but I can already tell that it's going to be painful. I just hope he'll come back to me, eventually.

  6. Having kids is this incredibly intense love affair that has a built-in expiration date - you will still love each other, but that crazy love? That doesn't last.

    But maybe that's good - crazy intense moves on to something a bit more sane. That doesn't mean I won't be heartbroken when they don't want me to tell them stories at night anymore ("just one more? please!"). They are 10 and 7, we are just hanging on to that now, but life has to move forward.

  7. I wouldn't be offended by what the long-ago friend said at all. I'm always relieved when people I haven't seen in ages turn out to be happy and well-adjusted because so many don't. It has nothing to do with how they were back when I knew them. There's just so much misery as we age (she has cancer, they're getting a divorce, etc.), that it's heartening to see success, good health, and stability.

  8. This is lovely. I have a 7 month old (named Violet, incidentally).
    I love your writing Christina! Please write every day!