Fiona weighs 18 pounds. Her sister weighs 30. Together, they weigh 48 pounds. Holding one in each arm, or keeping one in a carrier and another on my hip, I have carried this weight many places. I’ve carried it into church. I’ve carried it through the house after naps, when kids kick and wail at the thought of being put down. I’ve carried this weight through the doors of places where playgroups and toddler music classes are happening.
I carry this weight knowing that most mothers of a one- and a three-year-old don’t have to carry both their children. Most parents of a three-year-old—the overwhelming majority—don’t have to support their kids’ bodies with their own bodies.
I used to push these 48 pounds—or slightly less—in the double stroller. The stroller is sometimes easier, sometimes harder than straight-up carrying. It’s harder when you have to push the stroller up a step or two. It’s impossible when you have to navigate more than two steps, as you do with most storefronts in our New England town. But in this winter’s Artic Freeze, the sidewalks have made an even bigger joke of our stroller than the marble steps of quaint storefronts do. In this winter’s permanent layer of ice and snow, the wheels won’t budge.
So I find myself carrying my kids. Up icy ramps and down icy pathways and up snow-covered steps and into the warmth of indoors. You have your hands full, strangers say. And when I can’t carry both, I put the one-year-old down, who toddles forward. But there are still 18 pounds in my arms. You have your hands full, strangers still say.
Reader, today something amazing happened. Something I’d vaguely envisioned before, but never fully. How could I? Why would I? With Fiona, I drop scripts, letting her development unfold without putting pressure on her (or me) to “achieve” something. But today, I stood in yesterday’s dream. The fantasy of my past became my present.
My kids both walked out of a public space by themselves.
They both navigated through a door, down a ramp, and along a pathway.
Petra walked. Fiona steered her walker. Finally. Fiona can finally steer her walker.
I was stunned. Who knew when this moment would come? It was a bolt of something cold and impossible and beautiful, happening in real time. It struck me. I was struck in the face by a February sun, and struck in the lungs by a wind chill factor of -20, and struck in the heart by the gorgeous look of it: both my kids, navigating the world independently. Without me.
Reader, the weight in my arms was zero.