We were walking around our neighborhood like we always do in the mornings. The sun was shining bright on the glistening leaves of the trees, and the streets were busy with car traffic and walkers starting out their commute to work. I feel rich that my heart gets to beat slow and breathe deep as I follow along behind my busy almost 18 month-old. These are the days. I don’t always feel that way, especially as I weave my toddler in and out of our urban neighbor’s backyards. My little one tries to get into their trash cans, move patio furniture, and push their lawn mowers. This man-child I’m raising is obsessed with lawn mowers. “Mamia,” is what it sounds like when he tries to say lawn mower. “Mamia.” Over and over again. Thankfully only a few of our neighbors have mowers sitting in their not-fenced in yard. My son likes to run into said unfenced backyard and attempt to push these oddly fascinating contraptions. On this particular morning, we heard the “mamia” and Oliver started off towards the noise. I could see, down the hill towards the building on the corner of our street, the landscaper riding on a tractor-sized mower. I took another deep breath and quickened my pace to keep up with my little one. The machine buzzed away at the grassy field behind the brick apartment building. Oliver ran towards the hum. I grabbed his hand, helping him over tree stumps, concrete, parking lots, and dirt that separates us from that stretch of land.
I loosely rested my hands on Oliver’s sides to keep him from bounding down the hill towards the chopping machine. I squatted down next to him, as we both peered down and watch this “mamia” go back and forth. Oliver’s basically at Disneyland. The noise and the action are a thrill for him. I breathed a sigh of thanks for a little entertainment that takes zero creativity or effort for me. My heart’s not always into this stay-at-home #momlife. I looked at his face, eyes-wide and star-gazed at the mower, as the older man rode the machine. The landscaper has tan skin from his frequency outdoors, light jeans, running shoes, a grey t-shirt that matched his mustache and curly hair. He drove up onto the parking lot where we stood, just above the lawn he had worked on. He steps off the lawn mower and turns off the orange and charcoal-grey colored beast. He laughs and says something about kids loving the noise. I turned away, thinking he was done talking to us. The landscaper starts to chat with me about how cute Oliver is and that time goes so fast. I realize he wants to converse, so I look back at him while simultaneously keeping a hand and a peripheral eye on Oliver. He goes on about how his own son got married last weekend, and that he can’t believe that life just flies by. I see his eyes start to water, and I know he’s holding back tears as visions of his child flow through his mind. He mentioned remembering his son toddling around like Oliver. He also remarks that the first year felt like ten. The sleepless nights and the long days make the first year the hardest. The man tells me to enjoy every moment of it, takes a hold of his “mamia” and pushes it down the street toward his truck and trailer. I come-to and realize Oliver is still standing next to me, mouth opened, starring at the lawn-mower steered by the man who envies me.
That’s it, friend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Life is harder but better with our little ones. It’s not near easy but it’s got joy squeezed into all the places you never thought you’d find it. “The days are long but the years are short,” as some wise person phrased it. Perspective is my friend. She tells me to listen to what my old soul would tell me. The old soul would tell me to forget about the to-do list, my career goals, the pressure to perform, and drop the stress. She would encourage me to laugh, pray, and dream more and to never give up on searching for beauty in the mundane. After all, parenthood isn’t just diapers, nap schedules, and sleepless nights. Parenthood is an adventure that lasts a lifetime.