Motherhood sometimes makes you feel like you’ve lost yourself and become invisible to the world you used to know.
We used to enjoy going to lunch together mid-week. Just my little toddler boy and me, while the older brother was at school. He brought his stuffed animal and a make-believe dragon toy and we sat in a booth together in the after-lunch time when there weren’t so many diners.
Our waitress was a young 20-something woman with a bright smile and an attentive, busy nature. She didn’t mind the ketchup mess he was making with his fries (extra tip money for that girl, I thought).
I listened to his three-year-old voice tell me his story about his dragon and his stuffed animal, and I watched his delicious face and his long eyelashes and all his amazing silly light.
I had to keep an eye on my watch – the older brother would be dropped off at the bus stop within the hour. But it was like time wasn’t passing anymore. I had learned to be in the moment with my kids, finally. You have to, or you’ll miss the really good stuff.
His favorite part was the ice cream, so of course, we stayed for that. And as he got himself all messy in birthday cake ice cream, we talked together about his favorite characters from his favorite PBS show. He even sang a little bit of the song from it for me right there. We both laughed and sang it together one more time.
The light from that boy’s eyes, and the lilt of his laughter. If I could have frozen time right then and there, I would have, and I’d still be there now.
It’s indescribable that sound of your own child’s laughter. Knowing that it’s fleeting makes it all the more precious. You know his laugh won’t sound exactly like that a year from now. He’s changing every single second. You can’t bear to miss ANY of it.
No one knew I was there that day. No one was watching. I was invisible. The world was moving on without me while I sat there with him and soaked up the hour and his laughter.
I’d been feeling so invisible. Not ungrateful — just as if my former identity and my “noticeable” life had disappeared, in a weird way. I was just “mom” for now and that was important, rewarding and wonderful. But it was sometimes sad and really hard for me, too. It was a really big part of me I left behind when I became a mom. It was surprising to me that I often felt invisible.
The waitress handed me the check, and as she placed it in front of me on the table, she looked at him and smiled. She turned to me, looked right in my eyes, and said, “You’re a really great mom.”
It was so surprising and unexpected, my breath caught a little bit and I forced out an awkward giggle. I smiled and said, “Oh, thank you. That’s so nice of you.”
She said, “No really, I’ve been watching you with him. You’re a great mom.”
I smiled. I looked at him, with his smiling sticky face and long eyelashes. She smiled at us again and rushed away to another customer.
I was surprised at my tears, really. I had to just wipe ’em away before anyone even noticed.
To be noticed like that. When you’re resigned to feeling invisible.
It was a gift, what that young woman did for me that day. A lifelong gift. Every time I remember it, I stand firm in my belief that everything I gave up for this parenthood job was worth it.
He’s 14 years old now. My little man, with his voice already changing. Tall as me, with long slender fingers having replaced the little sticky ones. Same long eyelashes, though…
What I would give to go back to that day.