I imagine for most people, spending a week's vacation in a house with a rambunctious nearly 3-year old and a two-month old baby wouldn't be at the top of their list. In fact, a number of people I know would likely run screaming in the opposite direction. But the largely low-key days spent in running errands, going to story time at the library or playing in parks in middle Georgia were perfect.
Sarah and I have been friends since college, and, for all intents and purposes, she is my sister. She has a PhD in microbiology and is hoping to start teaching in the fall. And although sometimes she wonders about the job she is doing as a parent, she's a fantastic mom. She and her husband, Michael, have two beautiful boys, the youngest of whom, Charlie, became my godson last week.
It's so strange how fascinating a 2-month old can be. And he's growing so fast. Even in the short week I was there, he started holding his head up more and smiling regularly in response to the smiles of those around him. Several mornings I simply found myself staring at him in wonder. Only about 10 pounds, it's amazing how quickly I'd have to switch arms when holding him (note to self: go back to the weights at the gym!). And being awakened by the crying baby in the early hours didn't even bother me.
Peter, his older brother, would cuddle into my lap -- sometimes transferring sticky remnants of his breakfast oatmeal from his pajamas to mine -- for a book, demanding I "read this!" Then, like as not, he'd throw the book at me a few minutes later. He kicked me in the face at one point as I was putting him into his car seat, but not out of any sort of malice. He's very much all boy and is completely acting his age: asserting his independence but looking for attention (At one point, on a playground, Sarah and I, at the exact same time, called out "No-no-no-no-no!") by running away in stores, fighting to not hold you hand in a parking lot, begging to watch more Wonder Pets or Sesame Street (several days after returning home, I still find myself humming or singing children's TV show theme songs), wriggling away when you attempt to come near him with shoes or clothes or a toothbrush and slowly coming to realize that this crying, pooping bundle of a little brother so recently thrust upon him isn't going anywhere.
I became handier at putting kids in and taking them out of car seats (even in the dark, without the benefit of a dome light). I can now open store doors and maneuver strollers through without a second thought. Taking an entire stroller, complete with its 22-month old passenger, into a bathroom stall, was a new experience. And speaking of that stroller, I finally managed to learn the trick to unfold it one-handed. I picked up some other tricks (the fine art of persuading, placating and distracting, for example) for future reference, too. :)
Wednesday morning, we went to Sarah's weekly mom's group meeting at Sacred Heart parish. Part social time, part Bible study, it allowed the moms time to chat, while their children were being taken care of by others. The group, composed of women with children of all ages, teens to newborns, were reading Kimberly Hahn's "Chosen and Cherished," which, among many things, talks about the sanctity of marriage. The group was on the last chapter, and the conversation meandered from marriage prep, how in-laws can help a married couple face challenges to the fear of losing one's identity in marriage and tackling discipline issues with misbehaving children. Despite some of the struggles they shared, listening to them (an occasionally chiming in), was both refreshing and reassuring.
The week before my vacation, I was on a phone interview with a woman I'd never met. As it was right before Mother's Day, I wished her a happy one. She asked if I was a mom, I assume because she wanted to know if she should wish me one back. I said no, but that I hoped to be one day. She said, quite emphatically, "Oh, you will."
That's not the first time something like that has happened to me. Random strangers telling me I'll make a good parent. My friend Jess said it could be the prompting of the Holy Spirit, sent to reassure me that the vocation I feel called to is really part of God's plan, and not something I've simply convinced myself of out of sheer cussedness.
At one point in the week, when I was trying to urge a fussy Peter to cooperate or maybe while juggling Charlie, Sarah asked me jokingly, "Convinced you not to want kids yet?" My answer was an honest no. She fusses that her house isn't neat enough, but I think that's a sign that she has more important things to worry about then, say, whether her ceiling fan blades are dusted regularly. And although she struggles to find time for herself amidst her job as a mom ("Be grateful," she said "for the single time you have now, because when you're a mom you find what extra time you do get to yourself is often spent catching up on chores.") she wouldn't trade this "adventure" -- her word, not mine -- for the wide world.
And while it was only a week, I thoroughly enjoyed being Sarah's helper. I look forward to the day when I'm blessed with children of my own, and have the opportunity to use some of the skills I had the chance to practice during my vacation.