More strollers, more skateboards, more helmet-wearing youngsters…… the transformation within our neighborhood has become clearly more evident during this pandemic, with many families spending more time at home, and a younger generation of families flocking to the streets.
“I just got this new scooter!!!” …. exclaimed the young boy with a helmet and a proud smile, probably 7ish, his face glowing with excitement. As I nodded and started to pass by, he kept looking up at me, eager to engage in conversation. He looked so….happy! Something about his “look” – the eagerness, the excitement in his eyes, the sheer “boyishness” – something about it touched a soft spot inside of me, and took me back 20 years…..
Once upon a time, WE were that young, new family in the neighborhood. Not this neighborhood. There were actually several (Louisville…..Minneapolis…..Chicago), as we explored new career opportunities, embraced new surroundings, and navigated the world of raising little boys.
“Wow – I absolutely love your scooter, it is so cool!” I replied to the adorable boy. His younger brother, probably 3ish, trailing behind on a little bike with training wheels….and bringing up the rear, a young pony-tailed mom, pushing a little baby in a stroller.
This was my life, years ago ….. on a sidewalk in a Midwest suburb, walking to the park with my 9-year old on a scooter, my 5-year old trailing along, and me, trying to keep up as I pushed my new little baby in the stroller, feeling some guilt as this third child always had to settle for quick naps in the stroller. My mind can clearly “see” this image, even the vivid colors of the grass, the trees, the sky. My brain can clearly remember the exact feeling of this long-ago moment…..all of the joy, mixed with worries and fatigue at the same time……juggling daily responsibilities, feeling capable and content on many days, yet sometimes overwhelmed and lonely on other days, craving faraway friends and family. I can remember….all the feelings. I can remember…..my sweet, wild little boys. My throat tightens.
As I walk away from this cute family, I secretly send “vibes” to this young mom, as I think about all she must be dealing with, along with the extra challenges of the pandemic, social distancing, and remote learning (aka, home schooling!). My heart goes out to her, and all mothers right now.. Parenting is challenging enough, even under the best of circumstances…I cannot imaging raising little ones during this time. I would likely lose my sanity. Yes, many prayers and vibes sent her way.
My mind drifts back to those early years ….so busy and challenging, yet also, a pure sweetness, even a blissful “innocence”. With three energetic boys, it was easy to get caught up in the challenges of every single moment, without giving a passing thought to any future challenges or hardships ahead. During that early stage of motherhood, my images for the future life of my children was always idyllic and hopeful. But just like every family on earth, we have endured some bumps and obstacles along the way…..along with many wonderful moments of pride and joy. We have sailed through some dark and stormy waters, no doubt…but with love and patience and tenacity, we have learned how to navigate through rough waves, and stay intact. If truth be told, we are always still learning.
All of this – all of this – overwhelms me as I walk along, after my quick interaction with this sweet young family. This mom has NO idea how the years ahead will unfold. None of us do. Each individual path will be unique and special, but no path will always be easy.
Today, we are all trying to find our way through this rough, uncertain time in history – a worldwide pandemic, as well as a nation in crisis over racial injustices, and the tension of a crucial upcoming election. The days have morphed into weeks, and months. We are weary. Each person, each family, must continue to examine their own heart, finding their own route. While we are in this unprecedented moment together, we each must navigate our own way, finding hope and courage to meet each challenge, and hopefully lift others up along the way.
My heart tugs, my eyes sting….as challenging as it is to raise a family, at this very moment I would just LOVE to have my “little boys” back for a day, riding and running along with me for my walk through the neighborhood. I would love to turn back time, pre-pandemic, walk along the path into the woods, holding their soft little hands …. I would love to nuzzle their sweet, sweaty necks…and then walk back home with them, curl up next to them and read them a story.