I had just returned from taking Gertie for a short walk around the little block. The boys didn’t want to come so I left them at home playing Minecraft, locked the door, and ordered them not to open it for anyone.
That’s okay, right? (I’m asking for a friend.)
Anyway, I went around the little block so I’d get back quickly. We call it the little block because sometimes the boys are lazy bums and don’t want to go around the bigger, longer block in the other direction. Apparently too much exercise and fresh air are detrimental to their gaming regimen.
The little block is a path I’ve traversed countless times with my boys over the years. Oh, the fun insanity we’ve had on the little block! We’ve splashed in puddles after rainstorms and collected rocks. We’ve chased butterflies and searched for worms. We’ve gathered acorns and raced to the stop sign. We’ve scraped knees and talked about dog heaven. Sometimes the little block was a means to a peaceful end (naptime). Other times it was my Kryptonite because getting around the little block with two curious little boys took three lifetimes and ended with me pulling my hair out or worse, which at least was entertaining to the neighbors.
It was close to Halloween when we first moved into our house. Dylan wore a bumblebee costume that year, and we took him trick-or-treating around the little block. He didn’t care about candy (yet), but he liked to ring doorbells and touch garage doors and say “ah-rage.” It was before his sensory sensitivities erupted and during the good ol’ days when he ate chicken. It was when I was pregnant with Riley and my problems were naptime, bedtime, and poopy diapers. It was when people told me to enjoy every minute, and I wanted to strangle them.
When Christmastime rolled around that year, Mike and I took Dylan and Harry on long walks around the neighborhood in the evenings to look at Christmas lights. Eventually Dylan refused to sit in his stroller, which was when we began walking mostly around the little block because walking anywhere with a two-year-old kid didn’t get anyone anywhere fast.
There’s this one house on the little block that has always decorated for Christmas perfectly. There’s no inflatable nativity scene blowing in the breeze on the front lawn and no blinking lights that only cover one third of the house. No, this house has green garland framing the front door, a beautiful wreath with a big, red bow centered on the roofline, three lit candles in each front window, soft yellow lights blanketing every hedge in the yard, and three sparkling snowmen on the side lawn. Every time we walked by this house that first Christmas in our house, Dylan would point his pudgy finger at the snowmen and say, “noman.”
It was when Mike got home from work early enough to take evening walks. It was when there was no homework, eye exercises, or Kindergarten angst. It was when parenting while pregnant was physically impossible demanding interspersed with moments of Awww (like “ah-rage” and “noman”) that made it all worth the mess and sleep deprivation.
On my quick walk with Gertie around the little block – quick because is it actually okay to leave five and eight-year-old kids home alone for ten minutes? – something stopped me in my tracks.
It was the “noman.”
Suddenly, the passage of time – of six years – hit me like a brick. If the boys had joined me on this walk with Gertie, they would’ve done it on a bike, a scooter, or rollerblades with me yelling from behind, “Watch out for cars backing out of driveways!” or “Wait for me at the fire hydrant!” They would’ve sped past the “noman” without a second glance.
As I deal with the challenges we face today with school, work, friends, and family, I yearn for the simplicity of those long ago walks around the little block. Even the ones when Riley insisted on collecting and carrying palm fronds three times his size all by himself NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TOOK because Harry liked to chew on them in our backyard. I truly miss when my problems were naptime, bedtime, and poopy diapers.
Now when I pass moms with babies, I want to be annoying and tell them to enjoy every minute because it does go by fast. I’m not out of the woods by any means, but the physical exertion of motherhood has transitioned into something more akin to emotional torment. Everything is still hard, but it’s not my back that strains from the work, it’s my heart.
I gave a quiet salute to the “noman” and continued walking. Once I turned the last corner of the little block and saw my house with no overt evidence of a home invasion or kidnapping, I took a deep breath and remembered something I read earlier in the day:
Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down.
When I walked through the front door, I did my best to let gratitude wash over me. Gratitude for my complicated, loving, and growing boys who were thankfully standing exactly where I left them ten minutes earlier, for the memory of the “noman,” and for the little block whose path I realized has selflessly given me so much.