I WAS NEVER one to believe the older women.
The older women are the ones who stop you in public when you have children younger than theirs and offer free advice.
Once I was in an elevator and an older woman said the baby was too hot wrapped in a quilted bunting.
Hmmphf. How would she know the baby was too hot? If anybody would know it would be me, the baby’s mother.
When I took the baby out of the stroller, the back of her head was hot and sweaty. Lucky guess, I thought to myself.
“Enjoy your children when they’re young,” an older woman once said at the grocery. “Time passes so quickly.”
The baby strapped into the basket was gumming the handle on the grocery cart because she was teething, the middle one was stepping on my feet trying to wiggle between the cart and me, and the oldest was lobbing junk food into the cart every time I turned my back.
Time passes too quickly? There were days when time couldn’t pass quickly enough.
When our son was old enough to use a public restroom by himself, I told him to get in there and do his business, not to mess around in the sink and if anything weird happened to scream like a banshee and I’d be there in a flash.
An older woman passing by smiled and said, “You never quit being a mother.”
“Shhh. I’m trying to listen,” I said, with my ear plastered to the door.
When the kids hit the teen years, they set their own alarm clocks, packed their own lunches, began using razors and shaving cream and driving cars.
They’re growing more independent, I told my mom.
“Yes, but you never quit being a mother,” she said.
One by one they went to college. “This is it, the big launch,” I told a neighbor as we packed boxes and clothes and a mini-fridge into the back of the van.
“It sure is,” she said. “But you never quit being a mother.”
I worried when they called home hacking with a common cold. I sent sunscreen by snail mail and left phone messages reminding them to wear flip-flops to the shower so they didn’t get that ugly nail fungus you see in the Sunday circulars.
When the oldest got married, I smiled at the bride and said, “He’s all yours now, honey.”
An aunt overheard and said, “Yes, but you never quit being a mother.”
Last Tuesday, I drove through torrential rain late at night to swap laptop computers with the college kid whose machine was on the fritz.
On Wednesday, I put work on hold for a day to drive three hours out of town and three hours back with another one to help search for an apartment.
On Thursday, I spent 20 minutes on the phone giving the oldest one a pep talk about a slump in his job and reminded him to get his hair cut.
On Friday, a friend called to say her little boy had started kindergarten and was doing very well. He is growing up, she said.
“Sure,” I said. “But let me tell you something: You never quit being a mother.”