Some time ago we moved to our current neighbourhood, what we jokingly called, “Strollerville” (a term I first heard made by Professor Richard Florida). At that time, the 7 year old was a new toddler, and the 3 year old was my next project. Strollerville is the mecca of neighbourhoods for young (yuppie-ish) families – right on the subway line, which makes it easier to get downtown (I swear nearly everyone in this neighbourhood is either a banker, lawyer or stockbroker), within walking distance from some very well known and one-of-a-kind retailers, great schools and parks, plenty of free street parking, and easy access to the city’s major highways.
Yet, coming from a very chic and trendy neighbourhood downtown where children were almost never to be seen outside the 9am to 3:30pm window, and where the closest thing to a kid’s play place was the Baby Gap or the Potterybarn Kids on Bloor Street – which, ironically were almost always devoid of children – Strollerville was like being in a theme park with children everywhere! And although I missed the sounds of luxury imports racing up and down our street, I knew that we had made the right decision for our little, growing family – particularly since I no longer was mistaken for “the nanny” when I would take my (then) toddler out for a stroll!
Strollerville is now my home and I’ve found that I’ve marked my time here in the most unexpected way. True, the trees have grown, the house could use a fresh coat of paint (thanks to my two little terrors), new restaurants and shops have popped up, and the little boy who would always ride the bus with his mom is not so little anymore…
My first weeks commuting to work were the most harrying for me. I had to wake up an extra 45 minutes earlier just because we had moved 10 minutes away from the core! Anyway, I would see this woman with a little boy, about the same vintage as my 7 year old, nearly every day on my way home from work. They seemed to have such a connection – he was very sweet and quiet and never tested his mother, while she had the kindest disposition. They even looked like each other. He was very obviously the center of her world.
Now I’ll take a moment to digress here…I am no less connected to my two boys, who are definitely the centers of my world but I cannot recall a single day where I haven’t been tested, pushed, stretched, taxed, overwhelmed, etc. by them! Particularly in public when their inner Satan chooses to come out and party. I mean, simply recollecting the shenanigans of this past weekend, my birthday weekend, when they repeatedly begged to leave dugout seats (I repeat, DUGOUT SEATS) at a baseball game (after the top of the FIRST inning) and simply became more insistent with every minute culminating in both of them on my lap in inning 5, completely obstructing my view, each whining into my ears (too closely and spitting God knows what into my ear canals…eeew), and then breaking down in tears when I unexpectedly took all my frustrations out by yelling at the ump!
Or as recent as last night, when I was given a hard time because I’m planning to go out (sans les deux) with my other mommy friends and have too much food, too much wine, ice cream on the giant piece of (faux) Canadian shield in Yorkville, while wearing my too short for me shorts and stilettos, and pass judgement while people watching, without them. Here’s how that went:
Me: So guys…just a reminder that mommy’s going out
7 and 3 year olds in unison: WHY???!!!
Me: It’s mommy’s birthday. You want me to have a nice birthday, don’t you?
7 year old: But your birthday passed. How many times do you have to go out for your birthday?
3 year old: Ya. Issss my bertday (His “bertday” was actually 4 months ago)
Me: No, it isn’t your birthday. It’s my birthday party. And mommy’s friends are going to take her out. She deserves it. [Note: I am all flustered and like a volcano that’s moments from erupting…] I’ve cooked and cleaned for you, I take you to school, I pack your lunches, I play with you, I buy you all the greatest toys and clothes, I go to work so that I can earn money to keep a roof over your heads, so guess what? I’M GOING!
Them: [Totally un-phased] can we come too?
Anyway, I hadn’t seen this woman in some time but today, as I hopped on the subway a little earlier than usual; there she was sitting just perpendicular to me, with her son. He had grown so much… Still, just as obedient and quiet as ever – she was reading the newspaper while he was busying himself with a Nintendo DS. And when she thought the volume was too high, she gently leaned in, whispered something to him, and he, without a moment’s hesitation, turned it down. I noticed that she didn’t wear a ring on her left hand – perhaps she is raising him by herself – and when I looked up at her face, I noticed that time had also moved for her. No longer as youthful looking as when I first moved to the neighbourhood. Her hair had more greys, and there were a couple of lines near her eyes that crinkled in just that way when she smiled at her son. But she was no less beautiful, and no less lovely than when I first saw her those years ago…
I have no idea how long before my boys stop being boys. But what time I do have, although laced with tears, frustration, bewilderment and anger, is also wonderful, loving, happy, and most of all, magic. And just when I think that once again, things are just too hard and too complicated, I got the best belated present…
Them: OK…we know you really want to go out. Is that what you’re going to wear?
Me: WHAT?! WHY?! I just got this today…doesn’t it look nice? (Snap: why do I even care? Honestly? I just want my IV drip to start hooked up to a bottle of Pinot….) Are you saying this to upset mummy? Is this all because you really don’t want me to go?
3 year old: I don’t want you to go. [Figures]
7 year old: I don’t want you to go either but…if you have to go, you have to go. Hmmm…mommy, you do look nice. You look pretty, beautiful…you know, more than a princess. [Melt]