“This is exactly why I didn’t have children!” the man exclaimed as he glanced back disdainfully at me in the airport security line. He appeared to be in a hurry to get on his flight, perhaps for an important business meeting; and my tired, excited toddler had caused him a few moments’ delay. I was a bit irritable myself at this early hour of the morning as I had been up late the previous night packing and preparing for our family vacation. I wanted to say something clever back to him in defense of my young daughter, but I let my embarrassment break through and merely apologized.
We have become that family, I thought as I pondered what an impression we must have made as we passed through security and gathered all of our belongings and rushed to get to the gate on time. We had an exciting week ahead, and I shouldn’t have given that busy man another thought; but his statement somehow lingered with me. I let myself wonder for just a moment where that man was heading that was so critical and how different my life would be if I had chosen his “childless” path. Perhaps my week ahead would include meetings with distinguished clients in a far off city, rather than flying to DisneyWorld with four busy, impatient, sometimes whiny children.
My luggage would certainly be different with this supposed, high-paying job I had created in my mind. Instead of my well-worn Wal-Mart suitcase filled with DS games and fruit snacks, my briefcase would be packed with critical, time-sensitive documents, and my wallet would contain fewer pictures but more cash. “I could have been important too,” I muttered as I held my child’s small hand and walked down the jetway to board our flight.
As my children slept, I looked across the aisle at my husband and indulged in a few quiet moments of daydreaming, imagining just what my life would have been like if I had chosen another career besides “stay-at-home-mom”. I thought of the extra money we could have invested into our retirement accounts, envied the notoriety and prestige I might have experienced, contemplated the exotic places we possibly would have visited, and wondered aloud what it would be like to buy a new car, rather than owning a well-used car. I visualized my name, followed by an assortment of initials indicating my credentials, etched into the glass of my office door.
It certainly would have been a different reality. Just imagine for a moment–no more homework papers to sign, no worrying late into the night, holding a crying child or waiting for a teenager to come home. There would be no anxiety about the cost of college tuition, no creative chore chart to be made, no more time spent listening/begging kids to practice the piano, no more parent-teacher conferences to attend, no more book reports to write at the last minute, and no more sibling rivalry issues to sort through on a daily basis. Just think of the minimal laundry that would be required!
It wasn’t until a couple of days later, as I stood outside the entrance to Splash Mountain, that I was reminded of the airport businessman we had encountered. All six of us were soaking wet, laughing at the expressions on each others’ faces and enjoying this moment that was soon to become another happy memory. The kids ran off, giggling and dripping, excited to get in line for the next ride. I sat down on the nearby bench to dry off and found myself daydreaming again. What about?….
What about watching the eyes of my little girl light up in delight as she is finally introduced to Cinderella? What about helping my son order his tuxedo for the jr. prom? What about cheering for that daughter at the swim meet who just cut her time by a second? What about the impromptu “I love you” phone calls and text messages? What about those belly laughs and inside jokes and breakfasts in bed on Mother’s Day? What about witnessing that little girl who just stepped onto the school bus now march up to receive her high school diploma?
What about Christmas and the magic of Santa and the tooth fairy? What about football games, dance recitals and trick-or-treating? What about the first job, first date, first tooth, first bicycle without training wheels, first kiss, first steps, first word, first braces, first day with a driver’s license? What about watching a child’s eyes open with wonder as he learns to read? What about Splash Mountain and the irreplaceable memories of flying to Florida early in the morning with four children whose tired faces cannot mask their excitement?
“I am so sorry to have inconvenienced you, sir, but I am not looking back to watch your disgruntled expression. I am not embarrassed by my family, but now feel a bit sorry for you. I wonder if you’ve ever been to the Magic Kingdom. I wonder who will be there to celebrate your successes and mourn your disappointments. I guess you will never know what you have missed. As for me, I may not have known everything I was in for when I became a mother, but it has been better than I ever could have imagined. This is exactly why I chose to have children.”