I can't blame them. I am there with them, in the isolation of raising small children in a world devoid of neighbors, in a world where nobody raises their eyes anymore to say good morning, or to comment on the weather. I am here, too, in a world that bustles with people who have very important things to do, and very important places to go.
But it really makes me sad when I see all these people, mostly mothers, I'm talking about now, who walk about after their children at the park, or the Children's Museum, or the playground, and they look like they are driving little remote control cars. They are following their children, but their eyes are down in their hand, where their phone lies. They flip through messages, check email, see what's going on on Facebook. Their children wander, not unhappily, exploring their world as children will. The mothers are there, sometimes answering absently as their children prattle on, eyes down. They are missing most of what is going on in front of them.
I can't blame them, I'll say it again. The lure of connection, of somebody else out there, of someone who cares, or can make you laugh, or can remind you of the self you have when you aren't alone with your children, is enormous. We all need that link to our former selves. But Oh! how quickly childhood passes, and how fast the days of being able to be with little children will go by. Here are mothers who have the privilege of being with their children, yet they are gone. I feel sad for them. I feel sad for myself. I worry about where the world will be when my children are older, a world where people only interface by handset and ignore what's going on around them.
Here's why I can watch this: I don't have a phone. Yet. Because what will I do when I have one? I will look at it. I will try to keep it in my purse but sometimes I, too, will be overwhelmed by the curiosity of who might be thinking of me, loving me from afar. I know it's hard. I'm resisting joining this club until I absolutely have to.
Another reason why I can see this is because I have been here before, with Liam and Aoife. I have walked the parks, and visited the pool and the library for those early years and have watched the minutes and days be gobbled up before my eyes. Now they are in school, they are away from me for seven hours a day and I miss those early days. The knowledge of how incredibly fleeting early childhood is gives me seemingly infinite patience for the little things, the boredom, the beauty of puttering around with two little girls. I am already anxious about its end, about what the next stage will bring. I am dragging my feet, and I don't want anything to distract me from the warm hugs and cream cheesy kisses that I get today.
I'm so lucky to be here again, with these two little ones, and to have the joy of the big ones, too. I love, love, love our big family. There is so much figuring out to do with two children. The first comes, and then the second, and it's all a big guessing game, it's walking in the dark. But this second time, with number three and four, there is no mystery. Life is an open, clear book. I have walked this path. Suddenly it all seems easy, even the new things with the older kids. I realize it all comes around, ends up alright. Things don't cause stress. I'm so lucky to be here.