Parenting

A Hint of Spring in February: Balm to Cranky Moms and Toddlers

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Today was one of those magical days. An answer to a prayer. We’d been feeling so down, my son and I. Cranky and irritable and full of worry. A product of the long, cold, New York City winter. Cooped up inside for months on end we’d begun to fray at the edges, to unravel a bit, to come undone. Just last night I’d cataloged to my husband a list of things that concerned me about our son. His whininess, his clinginess, his fears. I said I’d forgotten what our son was really like. What we were like together, in the face of this two-year-old angst.

And then, in the night, a miracle. A hint of spring in February. The day dawned warm and sunny. Spring wafted through the windows and underneath the door. We could smell it in the air and hear it in the shouts and whoops of children outside. A tease, yes—it can’t possibly last—but a promise too.

And suddenly, our anxiety was gone. My son’s and mine. We smiled at each other, the long morning stretching out ahead of us, not empty space so difficult to fill, but full already of possibility waiting to be seized.

We got dressed, giggling about leaving our coats behind. We left the stroller behind too, walking hand in hand out onto the sidewalk. “It’s warm!” my son whispered in awe. “Yes!” I crowed. “This is what spring feels like.” His eyes were wide, his face aglow. We walked to the playground.

The whole city was outside. Everyone blinking in the sun, their winter-pale faces turned up to the sky. Smiling at strangers, coats cast aside.

He climbed to the top of the climber without me for the first time. Not because he couldn’t have done it before, but because I couldn’t have let him. He grinned at me when he reached the top. “There’s Mommy!” he said, amused to find me so far below him.

On the way back down another kid bumped into him and my son began to cry. “I’m overwhelmed!” he wailed in my ear. I held him until he felt better. It wasn’t that the day made everything suddenly perfect, only that perfection no longer felt like the goal. Sometimes we cry. The world isn’t ending. Look, it’s just beginning!

We wandered over to the library, which was far too stuffy and hot for a day like this but we needed to use the bathroom so we read a few books on the big, colorful rug. A book about mice made us laugh and a Star Wars book captivated us—shades of future fun.

Then out again into the sun-bright world. We watched some pigeons pecking at breadcrumbs and some sparrows bickering in a bush still empty of leaves. We walked, holding hands, down the street and bought two slices of pizza to-go from the hugely obese man on the corner. My normally shy and reticent son responded happily when asked his name and age and smiled widely when the man held up his own two fingers in response.

We ate our pizza in companionable silence on a bench at the playground. Beyond the fence, cars and trucks zoomed by on the expressway. “Cement mixer!” my son would say every now and then. Or, “Pickup truck!” And then, after a while: “I’m like a lizard with a long, long tongue eating a bug.” I looked down at him and met his eyes which were looking impishly up at me as he stuck out his tongue and licked his pizza. I laughed and ruffled his hair. “My little lizard.”

We walked home together. My heart was light. His little hand in mine was sticky and sweaty and wonderful. And when, a couple blocks from home, he asked me to carry him, I swung him up into my arms, happy to have his face close to mine, happy to hear every word he said. Happy to be here with him in the sparkling world.

Tomorrow it will be cold again. Gray and dark and dismal. The fears will come creeping back, the worries and the frustrations too. They’re old friends, they’re never too far away. But the memory of spring, the promise of more, will hang in the air around us now. And the knowledge that we’re both still here will carry us through. That we haven’t lost each other, he and I, but only succumbed to the long, cold winter. And soon, soon, it will be spring.