The other evening I met a friend for coffee at a local ice rink where her little boy was taking a hockey class. The place was teaming with kids in skates and hockey gear, bustling with frazzled, harried parents who hadn't eaten dinner yet (and it was almost eight). Some were on their cell phones with spouses figuring out where they were going to meet (with the kids in tow) to dine later, or discussing what the spouse at home was going to order out or cook. The air was electric with excitement, and with kids coming and going off the ice, and parents either talking on their cells or chattering with their kids, it was almost impossible for my friend and me to hear one another.
As I left the rink a little while later, there was a lightness to my step. I was leaving my friend to gather up her child, drive home and cook dinner or meet her husband at a kid-friendly restaurant. I had already had a leisurely, early meal and was looking forward to an evening of complete and utter solitude. All around me were parents hauling hockey gear, kids tiredly dragging their feet after their practices or games. I thought to myself, somewhat guiltily, "Been there, done that, and glad I don't have to be there again!"
The truth is, when I was transporting (I won't say hauling or dragging, though sometimes it seemed like it) my three boys to their many extracurricular activities over the years, I often wondered what I would do with myself when those days were over. My life was a whirl of Cub Scout meetings, softball games, band festivals, school concerts, trumpet and saxophone lessons, swimming lessons, art classes, fencing lessons, and so on and so forth (not all at once, thank God). But there were plenty of days when my kids were young when I did not stop driving or running until they were tucked in bed (or when they got older and needed to be driven to the mall, dances, or parties at all hours, until I was tucked in, well past my bedtime). Yes, I did my time and I loved it. But I'm not sorry it's over.
Now some of you out there who have little children are probably feeling sorry for me (or at least you're wishing a horde of grandchildren upon me so I could get my life back in order). And some may be envious, because you may be feeling rather tired of carting kids around all the time. But the best reaction, I believe, to what I'm saying is exactly the point I want to make: Love the place you're at, the time of life you're in, no matter what it is. Don't look forward, and don't look back.
Or, as we say in yoga (a phrase I really rather detest), "It's all good." But actually, it is. When your kids are little you're still young enough to have the strength and stamina to withstand all that racing around (unless, of course, you're one of those guys who has married a much younger woman and you're in your sixties with infant twins or some such thing--and if you are then bless you), and when you're middle-aged and older and your kids are grown you deserve to rest on your laurels. You deserve to saunter out of an ice hockey rink with your arms empty, with no one dragging at your ankles, into an empty, cool, clear night of stars in which you will pour yourself a glass of wine, or brew a cup of tea, crawl into bed with a wonderful book, and love the life you have.
Yes, I'd adore grandchildren...one day. But for now, the place I'm at is just where I want to be. My boys still get hugs and dinner when they come home from college or pop in for a visit, but then they stride out into the starry night on their own, happy as clams to be no longer holding my hand. The arrangement of growing up, it turns out, was quite a brilliant plan.