I hope I don’t need to preface this with some blanket statement along the lines of “I’m not a weirdo.” After all, I’m the parent of quickly aging kiddos, so this should make sense. I hope.
The other day, I’m doing the grocery store juggle – the one where you are picking up all the bags in one hand not because you can’t put them in the vehicle one at a time, but to ensure all the handles are working correctly for when you carry each and every one of them up to the apartment at the same time. Because 1 trip, yo.
Anyway, I notice a minor hullabaloo to my right in the cart corral. It’s a mom and a wee one, maybe 18 months or so. Anyhoo, the mom is trying to get her son out of the cart and he isn’t having any of it. So she does the tried and true distraction technique. She blew a raspberry on his tummy where the skin was showing between his Seahawks tee-shirt and where his jeans and diaper were slung below his little belly. Crisis forgotten as he cracked up in that giggle fit every parent knows means all is alright in a little person’s world.
I smiled. But by the time I was sitting behind my steering wheel and checking my rearview, my smile was gone. In fact, I was swallowing the lump in my throat that threatened to become a full-blown attack of the sads.
Not because of anything that mom had done, or even anyone else.
It’s just, I don’t have any baby bellies in my life. And yet, in that moment standing in the brilliant sunshine of a perfect fall day, it was like I was right back to each and every time I was that mom and that little baby tummy was a tummy I loved with every fiber of my being.
That was on Friday. On Saturday I told my kids that they owed me something and to not give me any grief. Then I lined them up and took this photo.
That’s Biggest, Littlest, and Middlest. And their three little tummies. Not an ounce of baby tummy to be found. But their baby tummies will always be in my heart and my memories.
I remember how each one looked.
I remember how each one felt, a bit like a perfect summer’s peach.
I remember how each one smelled – I used the same baby lotion with each of them and to this day I still remember that smell and I smile.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a new baby tummy in my life (maybe in 20 years as a grandparent!) and I don’t want my dear sweet kids to go back to being babies. But I don’t want to forget their baby tummies. I don’t want to forget picking up my own babies from shopping carts and cribs and park swings. How their hands raised in the air and their faces changed just because I was picking them up. I don’t want to forget how much my very being was connected to their being here and being happy.
I don’t want to forget.
But I also don’t want to forget this moment and how their three little tummies are right now.
As a mom, there are moments that get frozen in our mind’s eye. And sometimes it’s too easy to focus on the memories of yesterday instead of making just as powerful ones from today.
So there they were, standing against the wall, shirts pulled up and showing off their jammy pants.
“What are you doing?” “Uh, what’s this all about?” “Are you kidding me?”
My kids weren’t so keen on me taking this picture but they did it with a smile on their face, especially after I turned my phone around so they could see it. And they accepted, “it’s just for my blog” without qualm.
But what I didn’t say is that this photo is for me. For the mom I am today and the babies I have today.
They may not have little chubby tummies anymore, but I still adore them. And at least now I have a photo to remind me of the three little tummies in this world who mean everything to me.
BTW, I tried sneaking a raspberry onto Biggest’s stomach after this. He declined my attention in a fantastic display of revulsion and reflexes. “Just leave me aloooonnnnnnneeeeeee,” he yelled and did a perfect impression of a pill bug. A far cry from when it was him in the shopping cart lifting his shirt and crying, “Again Mama, again!” But I didn’t push it. Because just before he elbow caught me in the side of my head, I brushed my lips across his tummy…the briefest of kisses. As a mother of a teenager, you have to be sneaky as hell.