The Things I Carry
As we load ourselves into the car, I pass the diaper bag to my sister (who is visiting from Vancouver) to place at her feet before I drive us to our destination. She comments on the weight of my diaper bag and the unnecessary stuff I am carrying. She is (probably) right. I am most likely carrying many items that aren’t considered essentials, but I prescribe to the theory that one can never be too prepared. There is a change of clothes for each of my kids because Linden is still in diapers and a blow out is a very real possibility and Maelle has a carefree zest for life that would have her stomping through a welcoming mud puddle in a heartbeat. I also have a changing pad, diaper cream, and wipes. There is a small first aid kit that has Kleenex, Polysporin, sanitizing wipes, nail clippers, a thermometer, and band-aids. This bag is home to my keys, lip gloss, sunglasses, and my wallet. And, of course, housed in a bag within my bag is a variety of different nonperishable food items because I also live by the mantra that when in doubt, pack a snack. I have been a mom for almost 4 years and I have carried a diaper bag with me on almost every outing since day one. I have lifted this weight time and time again without a second thought as I trudged through snow, rushed through rain, and basked in sunlight from one outing to the next.
Of course, in addition to the weight of my diaper bag, I have carried the physical weight of my children. I have felt the heavy head of a tired toddler who has fallen asleep in the car. I know the ache of the travel car seat digging into the crook of my arm as I navigate a busy parking lot. I have supported the weight of my son on one side, while my daughter's hand grips my finger tightly. I have lifted my baby into our carrier as I desperately tried to soothe her to sleep during the early days of my own motherhood journey. I have cradled my children in the wee hours of the night as I fed them while they quite literally sucked every last ounce of energy I had from my body. I have hoisted my children onto my shoulders to see over the counter at the ice cream shop as their eyes grew at the sight of a special treat being scooped for them. I have lifted my children into their beds as their limp bodies, weak from illness, trusted in my strength when their own was not enough. I have scooped the two of them into my arms as we twirled around the kitchen dancing to a song playing much too loud and far too early in the morning. My arms have been a natural safe haven for my children. A place they have always run to without fear or second thought.
Then there is the mental load of motherhood. Quite possibly the heaviest burden of all to bear. I am the keeper of everything. I locate the swimsuits, the hats, the mittens, or the lost toys. I am the scheduler. Solely responsible for planning the day, scheduling playdates, registering for classes, or making the doctors appointments. I am responsible for organizing our life. I pack the snacks, lay out the clothes for the next day, ensure that things are where they need to be when they need to be there. I am the one who primarily keeps the house clean. I buy the cleaning products, I stock the toilet paper, and I am the one who makes sure the laundry goes from the washer to the dryer so it doesn't smell of mildew the next day. I take care of the planning. I arrange the special days, ensure that Christmas presents are bought, birthday decorations are hung, and that holidays don't pass by without notice. I am the shopper. I make sure there are meals in the fridge, I buy the milk when we are running low, and I make sure that the kids have clothes in the right size. When the day draws to an end my mind doesn't still itself. I run through to do lists, shopping lists, and my schedule as I try to fall asleep. I jump up from my bed at 1AM to jot down things I need to remember or to grab something that needs to be elsewhere. All of this is not to say that my husband doesn't carry his own, equally significant, but very different mental load - it's not a competition.
Unlike all the physically and mentally tiring items that I carry, I also get to hold onto the memories of my children. Memories, from my unique perspective, which I curate and file away. I spend the most time with them so I am often the one recounting the nuances in a moment; the way Maelle's voice sounded as she sang a song, the way Linden giggled at bubbles being blown in his face, or the tears in their eyes when the only emotion they have left to offer is one of sadness. I get to be the one who decides what moments become memories because I have chosen to make them so. I am lucky enough to be able to actively choose to take notice of something uniquely special in an instance and have it hold my attention for a split second longer than those that pass by. I get to decide which snapshots to file into my memory album which I can pull out and recount years from now during family dinners or special events. When my children ask me what they were like when they were little I can pull from my memory bank the most minute details that were so authentic that no camera could have been pulled to capture it. I will be able to recall the way Linden's dimple appeared when he had plans to do something mischievous and I will be able to describe the tilt of Maelle's head and the determined look in her eyes as she created a masterpiece. I will recount the feeling of Linden climbing onto my back as I lay on my stomach reading Maelle bedtime stories and I will be able to describe in detail the feeling of Maelle rubbing my ear as she sucked her thumb in a sleepy daze. This is a weight I carry that I hope only gets heavier and more rich with time.
I am well aware that one day I will be able to unload all of the weight I am carrying - both physical and mental. Someday I will trade in my diaper bag for a smaller, trendier purse that will carry only the essentials I need for myself. Not long from now, I will no longer be able to lift my kids into my arms and even if I still can they won't want to be there. Even the mental load I carry around will slowly lift from my shoulders as my children gain their independence. But I will forever carry the memories. So for now, I will hold all that I can while it is necessary and in the meantime, I will fill my mental album with snapshots of my children's lives. I will try to sear the little looks, small gestures, and unique actions of my kids into my mind so that years from now when I am no longer the one to hold it all, I will be able to recall this very special time in my life.