Turning Back the Clock

Columnist Christine Mackenzie gets a reminder of what it's like to be 1-on-1 with a toddler.

Let’s face the facts; motherhood is not an easy job.  The take home pay is non-existent, the hours are grueling and, frankly, the benefits package doesn’t always seem to measure up. No two stages of motherhood are alike and, sometimes, it can seem like the toughest job on earth.

As the mom of a 13-year-old I sometimes look at old pictures and wonder how my son could possibly be a teenager already. While some moms I know long for their kids to be babies again I have to admit that I have enjoyed watching my son grow into a self-sufficient and independent young man. Unlike a lot of moms that I know I don’t spend a lot of time longing for the days when he relied on me completely. To be perfectly honest I’m not even sure that, after all this time, I completely remember those days.

Yes, I am mom enough to admit that my son’s preschool and toddler years are, in some ways, a bit of a blur at this point. Yes, I remember his first words, his first steps and other important details but day-to-day events are simply lost with time. I’m fairly certain that it doesn’t make me a bad mom to have no idea when he ate his first peanut butter sandwich or which fruits and vegetables I introduced to him in the beginning.

Today, for the first time in a long time, I found myself spending the day alone with a three-year-old visitor and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was just a tiny bit nervous. Yes, 10 years ago I had my own three-year-old child. But reality is, those days seem like a lifetime ago.

Frankly it’s amazing to me how much has changed in the past 10 years. The games that seemed like new technology when my son was a preschooler are long since gone. Today, for example, I learned that any self-respecting three year old can already run a computer, use a mouse and print whatever they want with no help whatsoever. Ten years ago I was still trying to master those skills.

I quickly discovered, however, that in spite of all the new technology one thing simply hasn’t changed. Three year olds truly want your attention more than anything else. Yes, television shows and video games are a huge draw, but a little human interaction is still a whole lot better.

Yes, as crazy as it sounds, the simple things are still the ones that truly make a difference. Today I had a laundry assistant who was more than willing to carry a few items down the stairs, add the detergent to the machine and, yes, even push the start button. Did the laundry take me twice as long as usual? Of course it did but, fact is, it was well worth the extra time.

Next on the list for the day’s chores were Christmas cards. Together we stuffed the envelopes, sealed them and added address labels. I’m not sure the postman will be totally pleased with some of the more crooked address labels but, reality is, they have a certain “made with love” touch to them.

Even my son got into the act when he came home from school and took over with childcare. I knew immediately that I had, indeed, done something right when he jumped in and helped our little friend Savannah make her own Mac and Cheese for lunch. He didn’t give it a second thought as he pulled out the oven mitts, taught her how to put them on and made certain that all went well. A gentle reminder that, yes, he remembered exactly what I did with him at three years old.

As far as I’m concerned, motherhood is the toughest job anyone could ever take on. It is also, however, the most fulfilling job that anyone could ever hope to have. Watching your child grow and realizing that the lessons you have taught them will continue to be passed truly does make it all worthwhile.

Today I remembered what it was like to answer the dreaded “but why?” question all day long. I had flashbacks of a time when a simple trip to the bathroom was nearly impossible and recalled the days when dinner was nothing more than the leftovers from a toddler’s plate.

What I also remembered, however, was that all the hard work I put in all those years ago was completely and totally worthwhile.


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