It was a "trying-to-fill-the-awkward-silence-of-a-brief-car-ride" question being asked me by a new business associate. A million thoughts immediately flooded my head.
Yes! Let me tell you all about them! There is Lauren, who loves graphic design, and Meghan, who has decided to study music this year, and then there is Grayson., who loves airplanes and rockets and---
"Yes, I have three kids." Lame.
"Really. (pause) And how old are they?" Not that he sounded interested, but we still had a few blocks to go.
If I tell you, will you add it up in your head and write me off as middle aged?
"Well, our two daughters are in college (one is married), and our son is 13."
"Wow. You don't look old enough to have kids in college."
Oh, I am, mister. But I'm loving the flattery.
"Thank you. They grow up fast." I say.
"In fact, I didn't think you looked old enough to even have any kids!"
OK, now that's an outright lie. But I"ll be sure to thank my hair colorist. Big tip next time.
"Oh, don't be silly." I brush off the compliment like I won't repeat it to myself a dozen times.
I turn the question around. "How about you? Any children?"
"Two daughters, 4 and 6." Small smile.
Four and six. I remember the tea parties, the dress-up clothes, the princess tiaras and the coloring books. Those were the Beauty and the Beast years, The Little Mermaid years. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut into four triangles. I wish I had another 4 and 6 year old. Does the longing show on my face?
"That's a fun age."
"Yeah, my wife has her hands full. She stays home with them."
I was home for 15 years with my children. They were the best years of my life. They were days filled with work and wonder, exhaustion and satisfaction. But if I tell you that will you think less of me as a "business professional?" Quick, think of something to say that sounds supportive!
Now I sound patronizing! Does he think I'm a career woman who went the day care route and can't understand the agonizing choice to be home? No! That's not how I meant it to sound! I would give my left arm to be a stay-at-home mommy again! Let me just add something to that--"
He pulls into the parking spot. "Well, here we are. Boy, it sure is cold out. This weather is something else."
Wait! I didn't get a chance to tell you about my kids, and how much I love being with them, and how I've poured myself into raising them. I didn't tell you how fast the time went, or how I have no regrets about staying home with them! I didn't tell you to enjoy those little girls, that they are worth the years your wife gives them. I didn't get to tell you---sigh.
"You are right about that. I think it's supposed to rain today."