I'm in the airport cleaning up my notes from a most amazing work conference. A baby is crying. I glance up to see a shock of dense dark hair. With a barrette. It's a girl - and she's strapped to her Mom's chest in an Ergo, brown, just like mine was. The mom bounces and sways, to quiet the kid. Neither looks particularly upset. I feel a pang. Nostalgia? For traveling with a baby? WTF?
Yesterday, I saw a different young mom setting down a breast pump on a shelf, in a public bathroom, at a hotel hosting a largish conference. "Ah... That brings back such memories for me." Umm... Not great ones... I'm not sure anyone enjoys milking herself in an unsanitary space and making inconvenient arrangements to cart a cooler full of breast milk across state lines. Still, a pang.
That baby phase is gone, and the toddler one too. Now, the struggles are how to handle reports of tussles on the playground, how to stay present when a little big boy is asserting his independence, how to go with the flow when life feels packed beyond my comfort zone. I can leave for a few days and no one REALLY misses me. I get to sleep all night long. I won't have to race to nurse a hungry baby at the finish line of my 1/2 marathon in two weeks. There's lots more freedom in my life, which I like. And there's still a lot of chaos - more, actually. The "cats" I am herding now can talk. They have things to say. And they run faster.
And, in 4 years from now, I will look at the mom in the airport with two loud, rowdy little men, running in two directions - perhaps punching or elbowing each other - I will long for these days too. You can quote me on that.
But for now, I'm just gonna try to soak them all in.