In the midst of the normal every day wonderful-crazy, sometimes I forget that this life, the happy life that means you can always find a baggie of Goldfish in my purse and Barbies in my car, wasn’t always my reality.
At some point over the last few years I noticed something quite shocking. I grew up. And not just a little, but so much so that teenagers and young college girls look really young to me. And I can tell I don’t look so young to them– I can just tell. In the Target restroom, they pretend not to watch as I struggle with the olympic sport of– helping tiny people wash their hands without getting soaked.
The last time I feverishly ripped open a box of fruit snacks in the grocery store aisle to soothe the past-naptime woes of an assertive 2 1/2 year old, I noticed them. A group of high school girls watching me next to the granola bars. They looked inquisitive. They looked confused, as if to say– “why is that child doing that strange contortion with her body and whining and why does that mom have that HUGE vein popping out of her forehead?”
I resisted the urge to say, “Just wait…” Because, well, why? They aren’t even aware that their future sweet, innocent, precious darlings will one day make veins pop out of their side-swept bang-covered foreheads. Bless their hearts.
Because I was 17 once.
And I remember what I noticed. And what I thought as I babysat little ones.
Things like, “MY children will never eat frozen pancakes for breakfast.” (They did this morning, by the way.)
“MY children will never wear an abundance of character apparel.” (And whyyestheydo. And we all live to tell about it.)
So I wondered about what I thought then, and what I know now. And if I could go back, this is what I would say…
Dear 17 Year Old Me:
Hi. You may not know me but I’m you 15 years from now. I know. That seems like an eternity, but it’s really not. Regardless of how many times you watch Anne of Green Gables and calculate that she was about your age when she fell in love with Gilbert Blythe, it’s… gonna be awhile. So settle in a little bit. Enjoy what’s right in front of you. And stop thinking you’re going to find the man of your dreams around every corner. In fact, the next few corners you go around, just turn your head and look the other way. Trust me. Not. Him. Definitely Not him. And in a few more years? Not him either. Certainly not.
But in about seven years— Yes, that’s right… SEVEN years you will meet that guy. And though he won’t propose on a covered bridge outside an an Apple Orchard in early October, you won’t mind. And believe it or not, though his name won’t be Gilbert Blythe, you won’t want diamond sunsets or marble halls either. Just him. Trust me on that one.
And a few years later, when your college babysitting days are behind you–you’ll find yourself surrounded by those very little girls you’re hoping you have one day. They will be tons of fun and will come ready-made with the highest-pitched screams you’ve ever heard.
You’ll take a deep breath at about 3:00PM every day when your house is momentarily quiet. You’ll look around at the happy fallout of a life well-lived since 7am that morning and wonder if moving out would be easier than cleaning. It’s not.
Hopefully you’ll remember I said this when you get to that day– keep going, Mom. This life you have? It’s amazing. Those sticky maple syrup prints on the kitchen table? They were put there early this morning as two little sister-friends shared giggles and waffles (frozen, by the way) and they mean that those dreams came true. So clean them up with a happy heart, because your table will (God willing) be sticky again tomorrow.
Love, your Older, Wiser, Life-loving Self.