"Where is he now?" I groaned, tired of trying to cast my attention over three places at once. "He was just here." … I'm struck by my own voice as I called his name. Louder than I intended. I sound like a prickly teenager told she must mind her baby brother.
Ittybit sounds more like the mom.
"Shush," she hissed at me. "We're supposed to be quiet in here."
We were in Barnes and Nobel.
Bookstore … Library … Makes no difference to Ittybit, the ad hoc librarian. Books in stacks or shelves, in any place other than our home, require the reverence of clean hands and hushed tones.
Library Voice, in her mind, is different than Inside Voice. The former is just a click or two above Silent, whereas the latter is always a few decibels too close to Playground.
It was obvious I was the one in violation.
"Shhhhh," she admonished again when I called for her brother to come out from wherever he was hiding.
She wasn't worried about him. She knew he'd not gone far. He was probably watching us, giggling. She was worried about me, and that my obvious disregard for library etiquette would get us banned from books.
Oh how the tables have turned.
Going shopping with children in tow can make a parent feel as boneless as the limp child they're trying to coax off the floor or away from the Dora the Explorer yogurt. It's why we take every opportunity to shop while we're temporarily childless.
On my way to work I stop for toiletries. On my way home I stop at the grocery store. I browse online, happily paying outrageous shipping fees just so I don't have to deal with corralling my roaming minions as I compare ingredients and prices.
I chuckle to myself sometimes as I linger in cosmetics taking a little more time than needed to decide on New and Improved or Trusted for Generations. These days being alone anywhere – even the bathroom of my own home – feels like a miniature vacation. "I'll take a load off AND a gooey blender drink in Aisle Six," I think as I picture a chaise lounge and pulp fiction waiting for me at the check-out counter.
But I'm not one of those people who needs a vacation from my children. I really don't see them enough. A few hours in the morning and at night on weekdays is something most parents get a taste of in the teen years when interactions include mostly blank stares, eye-rolls and unanswered questions. By then the limited face time extends to weekends as well.
"It all goes by so quickly," everyone – including our own Inner Voice – is prone to advise. "Drink it all in. Don't waste a drop. Savor every moment."
I know all too well. I'm a witness to this time-space continuum. Just yesterday he was born. Now he's gone. Gone momentarily, maybe, but still able to go.
"Where is he?" I say, more playfully this time. "Where is my boy?"
"Here I am," he yells in his best Playground Voice. He darts from under the bargain bin with his squint-eyed grin about to burst into laughter.
"He really is cute," she says, forgetting for a moment her role as sibling arbiter of appropriate behavior.
"But we really should use our Inside Voices," I whisper, remembering my maternal one.