The other day as Sean and I walked hand-in-hand across the parking lot into the grocery store, I looked down at him and very clearly remembered the first time he walked into the store under his own power, just last year. I remember wanting to burn that image into my mind, wanting to force myself to remember that moment, knowing it was a milestone. Looking at him now, with his long strong legs and confident stride, makes me feel as though someone ransacked my heart and carted off his babyhood.
The months that I carried him into the store, all six pounds of him, in an infant carrier seemed to go on forever. I would have him snuggled down into the carrier and covered with a blanket. If anyone even looked like they were thinking of peeking under the blanket, I would give them the mama bear glare that promised I would rip them to shreds.
I remember thinking what a lot of work that was to get him in the carrier and then get the carrier snapped into the base in the car and then out of the base and then schlepping it into the store. There is no way to carry those things that is not awkward. I never dreamed six pounds could feel so heavy. And then once I had the carrier secured to the shopping cart, I couldn’t see over it and I was always bumping into somebody or something. And then doing it all in reverse on the way home. I remember it being exhausting. There was no energy left for any other tasks on grocery store day. Yet I miss that infant carrier.
I remember the first time I took him to the store and let him sit in the shopping cart seat – with a seat cover of course and only after I swabbed down the entire cart with Clorox wipes. I remember how much fun we had goo-gooing over one another and rubbing noses and hugging all through the store and how strangers would stop to tell me how cute he was. It was fun, but still it was exhausting. No one tells you how much schlepping comes with motherhood. Yet I miss that shopping cart seat cover.
Now he gets himself out of the car. Now he tell me to “Look both ways Mom” and protectively guides me across the parking lot. I try to remember to Clorox wipe the cart, but sometimes I don’t. He doesn’t want to sit in the seat so much anymore, but likes to hang off the back like a surfer catching a wave. Now I try to keep him from running down the aisles and stashing Coco Puffs and other contraband in the basket unbeknownst to me. And it’s exhausting. When we get home, he likes to help carry in the groceries, or at least the bag with the Coco Puffs. Someday I will miss my grocery store buddy and finding surprises when I put groceries away.
As we approach his third birthday, I look around the house and I see that the infant carrier is gone, the shopping cart seat cover has been tossed into a box in the garage, the baby gates are gone, the cabinet latches are gone. The baby is gone.
And it makes my heart ache because I know that someday too soon, the boy will be gone too.