As I walked into my friend’s house wearing tailored jeans, matching silver jewelry, hair straightened and pointed stiletto high-heeled boots for her 3 year old’s birthday, I encountered a sea of frazzled moms with wrinkled brows and matching ponytails. They were following their children ages 3 and younger with outstretched hands as if something detrimental might occur at any moment. The stressed and concerned moms with eyes wide all appeared perfectly versed in the same one-word directive, encouraging their kids to “Share!”
I furiously looked around the room, clutching my 10 year old around the shoulders as if he were about to morph into a 3 year old again. I realized I was in a world that I hadn’t been exposed to in what seemed like an eternity. How come I could barely remember a time when I had toddlers? After all, my son is only 10 and my youngest is 8. Did I block out the memories of pure frustration and overwhelming anxiety that permeated the room?
While I was about to walk toward a familiar face, my friend yelled “Share!” There was that word again. I could barely speak to a friend before she rose from the couch and hightailed her child.
Later at the party, I laughed inwardly. My son had been upstairs happily playing with 3 year olds, and I hadn’t checked on him in two hours. In that time, I had received countless compliments from other moms about how my son was watching the young children, teaching them about American Idol and entertaining them with singing. I relished the chance to sit back with ease, converse with my husband, share memories and comfort new moms that yes, it does get better. As I looked at my listeners, I convincingly stated: “You will regain your identity. Although life seems like it will never be the same, it will. You will get to a place where you can shower, exfoliate and even condition your neglected hair without worrying about the baby waking up from a nap, needing a bottle or missing a checkup at the pediatrician’s office.
I don’t want to leave out the dads. They were congregated in a corner talking about who knows what, cheering and clinking their drinks. Seeing the clinking glass tumblers reminded me of apes beating their chests on National Geographic. On occasion, it appeared that the dads purposely elongated the conversation. As they craned their necks to search for their spouses, they cringed that out of all the men, their name would be called. I was happy for my husband because he could finally engage with other men without me nagging him to change a diaper, get a bottle or keep an eye on the kids.
“Are they sharing?” I would ask him. Oh, wait, I do remember. It’s all coming back now.
Why do we feel pressured as parents to have our children share at all times? I could never understand this premise. The moment we each learn how to share is individual. Besides, some adults can’t even share. Think about the last piece of your favorite, mouth-watering cake— the one you savor every bite of. How do you feel when your husband wants a taste? Do you share? No way. Maybe if he were to ask before the last bite, but not then! But do children understand a term unless we model the behavior we expect?
Opportunities to teach the value of sharing can occur anywhere— in the park, at the laundromat, even in the kitchen. As my children grew older, my husband and I modeled sharing scenarios while the children were the audience, commenting and brainstorming about resolving the conflict. Did it always work? No, but sharing remained a lesson we endeavored to help our children grasp every day.
In the week leading up to the 3 year old’s birthday party, my children had a big argument about a toy car that hadn’t been touched in years. My first instinct was to shout “Share!” as I rushed to get my kids ready for school. Instead, I sat back and listened as they attempted to resolve the situation themselves.
Refocusing on the events of the party while watching toddlers and infants, it brought to mind conversations I’ve shared with my husband about expanding our family. My husband and I have considered having a third child, although he is 41 and I am reaching 40.
Slowly turning to my husband amid the chattering and chaos at the party, trying to block out the crying over toys and the repetition of the word share, I blurted, “Would you do this all over again?”
My husband said yes without hesitation, as he lovingly stroked a little boy’s hair. I questioned: “You would do the late-night feedings again, go to Little League when you might be the oldest dad there and take the baby to music class whenever I asked?”
With the shimmer in his almond-shaped eyes that I instantly fell in love with when I was 16, and with pure conviction, he said of course he would.
Then and there, I realized if we happen to conceive late in life, we would be happy to enter this furiously competitive and pressure-filled world of parenting once again, armed with experience and knowledge. Would I do some things differently? Absolutely. And I may have to get rid of the stilettos for a couple of years and trade them in for stylish flats. However, sharing the joy of raising kids with my husband again would all be worth it in the end.