It’s Tuesday morning and there’s a post-apocalyptic level storm raging outside. It’s warm and happy inside Miss Lily’s Café though. I sit down in a painted wooden chair, laptop open in front of me on the big harvest table.
The little dude is at preschool and right now he’s hopefully playing with his best friends. This morning’s tear-stained cheeks have dried, his pleas to stay home, long forgotten. Sipping a London Fog latte, I’m taking in all the lovely pieces of the scene around me—totally immersing myself in the perfect, pretty, coffee shop-ness of the moment.
Checkered floors, mismatched chairs, pretty rustic products lined up on shelves. Friends chatting to each other at little bistro tables. People reading or scrolling, passing time in cozy club chairs—and then there’s me, sitting here among them like a normal person, typing away.
It all feels so three years ago.
You know that shocking moment when you catch yourself inside a vignette of your pre-mom self and you’re floored that life still exists here just as you left it? Well that’s what’s happening to me right now. While I checked out to birth and rear a tiny human for a few years, coffee culture had been perfectly preserved in its awesome cliché little ritual.
And then today, I got to slip back into it for a few hours while my little boy-child, who actually came out of my body and then tightly held onto my hand for the subsequent thirty-six or so months, did his own thing.
Stockholm Syndrome, adapted.
When you’re a first time mom, the concept of preschool is hard to get your head around. I mean we obviously get the idea—kid goes to school, mom leaves and does things without kid, mom picks up kid. For a stay-at-home mom, however, the actual reality of it is almost ungraspable until you find yourself in a coffee shop, sipping a hot drink moments after it was poured, focusing entirely on one task. Don’t get me wrong, I love this kid obsessively. While he’s asleep at night, I watch videos of him from earlier in the day. But it’s also been a long time since I’ve been a solo human, doing my thing. It’s actually surreal how excited I am to shower alone. And maybe that’s why I was here at Miss Lily’s—where I could be surrounded by people, but not one of them would need absolutely anything from me at all.
Growing up is hard. Especially for adults.
Getting here ain’t easy. After the first few drop-offs I would leave the preschool bewildered, craning my neck to watch the road behind me, and then the sidewalks as I got further away. Any second my distraught little adventurer would surely break free through the heavy school doors and run across traffic looking for me. I imagined a thousand horrific scenarios and had to talk myself off numerous ledges. On the first day, I spent way too long standing in the hallway outside the classroom until a passing teacher guessed aloud that I might have been sent there on a time-out. And then suddenly I realized that separation anxiety isn’t just for kids. I wanted alone time, but apparently, not at the expense of being without my child.
When one becomes two.
But our kids have to learn. And we have to learn. If we hold each other too close, for too long, neither of us are doing our jobs of growing up. Our darling babies slowly become whole and separate. They go on to have healthy, distinct, and real relationships with people who aren’t their mothers, while we rediscover who we once were through the lens of who we’ve become. We reclaim the quiet buzz of life, tapping away at keyboards in coffee shops, contemplating other people as they come and go. We watch twenty-somethings order tea and seventy-somethings get lattes—all of them once someone’s precious three-year old, carving out their first little personal space in the world.
The Moms of Miss Lily’s
There are a few of us here now. We indulge in specialty drinks and share the best freshly-baked walnut-y cinnamon buns. Then we talk about every single thing that’s ever happened in the history of earth. Sometimes we talk about nothing and sometimes we read real books or cruise Instagram. For a few hours, twice a week, we’re just women laughing or women working or women thinking. And then we head back to to the preschool for pickup with a renewed sense of self, melting as we feel those soft little hands curl themselves back into our own—the best reunion in the world.