We sat on a picnic blanket spread out on the front lawn, chatting and catching up. Half-empty bottles of bubbles and a dozen pieces of broken chalk were scattered around us. The baby sat in my lap, reaching for blades of grass and undoubtedly wondering how they'd taste while the girls dashed across the lawn and back again. We'd get in a sentence, maybe two, before a little girl voice would call for our attention and we'd turn to watch frog jumps off the garden wall or to mediate a heated disagreement about who gets the cupcake chalk (clearly the favorite of all of the dessert-shaped chalks).
Across the street, our neighbor and her teenaged daughter walked out of their house. They waved to us and we waved back. And we watched them begin their journey down the hill together.
I turned to my friend to see my own wistfulness reflected back at me.
"When I see the two of them, it gives me hope," she said.
I nodded emphatically in agreement. Yes. Hope.
Hope that, 10 years from now, when the chalk and bubbles have long been put away, replaced by cell phones and homework and friends with parties, and all of the other things that little ones grow into, that we, too, might take walks. Mama and child. Hope that, in the quiet of the late afternoon, we'll wander around our peaceful streets and we'll talk. Connect. Continue building this relationship that I've been dreaming of since I first felt the pull towards motherhood.
I think of this future often. I spend hours dreaming of my future relationship with my kids. In this dream they, of course, want to spend time with me. Together we walk and talk and they are not embarrassed. They put their phones away and their conversations with friends on hold as we wander up and down the sidewalk in the cool evening air. Naturally, in this vision in my heart, they share everything with me, from their hopes and dreams to what they had for lunch. Naturally, I know well the moments of their days.
It's easy to sit here, with my 4-year-old girl who begins every other sentence with "Mommy!" and my 1-year-old boy who clings to my legs, and believe that our future will play out just so.
But it's also easy to imagine the opposite. It's easy to imagine that my babies will develop into the girl in front of me in line at Starbucks. Cell phone in hand, fingers flying furiously. Barely time for a passing glance when her mother arrives next to her. Clear irritation. Much eye-rolling.
It's easy to imagine because sometimes my girl has whipped out her pretend cell phone and talked about all of the 'texts' she's received on it.
Sometimes my boy holds his pretend phone to his ear and gazes blankly into the distance, forgetting to cling to my legs.
Sometimes I hear her say something and I know it is something important. But I miss the moment because I'm up to my ears in an email.
Sometimes I open my laptop to look something up or quickly pay a bill but before I even so much as type in my password, he's whining and pulling and wanting me to put on a video for him.
Sometimes she starts to tell me something and, instead of pausing and listening and responding, I close the car door on her words so I can rush to my seat and keep us moving.
Sometimes I say "just a minute." And then I say it again. And again. Until those minutes form an hour and they have long since moved on, the picture she wanted me to see forgotten, the book he wanted me to read tossed aside.
Sometimes I tell her to hurry up. Get dressed. Get your shoes on. Stop dilly-dallying.
Sometimes, a lot of the time, I am missing them.
These days, they come back. They ask again. And it's easy, these days, to believe they always will. But I know that they won't. I know our future of afternoon strolls is not a sure thing. Not a guarantee. Not yet, anyway. I know that if I don't give them my attention today, someday soon they won't try to get it. She'll find herself in a world of distractions of her own. He'll walk away when I am mid-sentence. The roles will reverse and I won't like it, not one bit.
I know that I need to work today for that future that I've dreamed of.
So today, I will put away my phone. I will turn it off, toss it aside, and walk away from the laptop and the lists and the things to do.
And, today, we will take walks.