I sit at the pediatrician’s office and watch a young couple with their brand new baby. They are coming for their first visit and they look tired, excited and overwhelmed. The baby is SO tiny in her carrier, curled into a tight ball, wrapped in a pink blanket. I marvel that my own babies were that small once.
I see the mom with the toddler, as the little one asked a thousand questions in about 30 seconds and she tried to patiently answer each one.
I watch the moms with a few toddlers AND a newborn, juggling the needs of them all- the stroller, the carrier, the diaper bags, her purse. There are not enough arms for it all. When she picks up one thing, a different thing seems to fall.
I sit in the back row, not even planning on getting up when they call Alex back. At 15 he doesn’t need me to go with him. At 15 you probably don’t even need a pediatrician any longer, but all of my other children moved on at 18 and I’ll let Alex do the same. There is comfort in having a doctor who has cared for you your whole life. So, I sit in this back row. I have no bags to juggle, no tiny hand to hold, no sippy cups or tears, no skipping out with lollipops.
The walls of the pediatricians office are so familiar to me and I can see myself in each stage of the women I am quietly observing.
When Catie was 2, the twins were newborns. I pushed a double stroller, held the toddler’s hand, slung the bag and the purse. Dropped things, juggled things.
Later, Catie at 4 years old, the twins at 2. I was outnumbered. Still using that double stroller so I didn’t lose a kid. Two year old twins are fast, in completely opposite directions. I read books, pass out sippy cups, pray we would get done before anyone has a meltdown.
A few years later we add one more baby and the dance continues. I soothe fevers in that waiting room, hold hands, watch them get shots, bribe with treats, pacies and blankets. I took them all for well visits, tried to keep them from touching anything. I marked their growth, checked their milestones. Celebrated.
And today I sit here, calmly reading a book, with no need to get up or worry. But I can see it all in my memory, like a flip book of pictures along a timeline. The hundreds of visits times 4 kids over the last 20 years. I remember the old saying about how the days are long, but the years go fast and it’s true. Even in this moment, as I sit here with a 15 year old I suddenly realize that we are almost finished here. In a few short years the days of pediatric visits will be done, so I try to appreciate today for the stage that it is.
I think about how easy we remember the “firsts” but we don’t always recognize the “lasts”…and beginning again is sometimes remembering and honoring where we’ve been.