Suzanne Tobias

Column documents 10 years of kids’ lives, a mother’s journey

Hannah and Jack Tobias
Hannah and Jack Tobias Courtesy photo / FILE

A friend recently asked how long I had been writing this column.

A while, I told her. Several years. Maybe six or seven?

I didn’t think too much about it until a couple hours later, when I started to wonder: How long has it really been? I searched The Eagle’s archives for my first column and found it.

It was published in 2005 – a decade ago.

My children were 4 and 7 at the time. I introduced myself to readers of The Eagle’s then-new WichiTalk section by explaining that I wasn’t a parenting expert and never would claim to be. I explained how, despite professional advice to the contrary, my kids had slept in my bed, eaten chicken nuggets and watched too much TV.

I pledged to use my new weekly column space to commiserate, share ideas, vent a little and remind other moms and dads that we’re all in this together. “We want to hear we’re not alone,” I wrote.

I smiled when I reread that. I thought about the mom I was 10 years ago and the one I am now. Those two women might see each other in the cereal aisle of the grocery store and give each other a friendly nod, the kind that says, “You seem nice enough, but you don’t know my life.”

My younger self would have her two children in tow, of course. She would be hurrying through her shopping as quickly as possible, stocking up on fruit cups and Goldfish crackers. She would try to ignore her son’s pleas for the most sugary cereal he could find, the kind that turns milk into chocolate milk. She would tell her daughter to stay close. She would remind them to cover their mouths when they coughed.

My older self is there alone, her teenagers at home or out with friends. She texts her daughter to ask what the Spanish teacher requested for the Cinco de Mayo party. She texts her son to see if he needs deodorant or shaving cream. She texts her husband to check the pantry for black beans. She lingers in the produce section. She speeds through the self-checkout.

The younger me would look longingly at the older me, wonder what it’s like to not be pulled and tugged constantly. The older me relishes her personal space. But she kind of misses those tiny hands, the eyes that would fill with tears when I left, the high-pitched shouts of joy upon my return.

My daughter is a writer now, reporting for her high school paper and discovering her voice through blog posts I read and a composition-book journal I never would. Someone told Hannah recently that her blog wasn’t interesting or original. At first she was hurt, she says, but then decided to shrug it off.

“I don’t … write this blog for other people,” she posted recently. “More than anything I write it for myself.

“I love going back at the end of each month and reading whatever entries I’ve written because it’s a fun way for me to see how much my life is changing and how I’m changing as a person.”

I feel the same way about my writing, I realized. For nearly 10 years now, this column has documented my kids’ childhoods – “If you don’t want me to write about it, don’t do it,” I tell them, half-jokingly – as well as my own journey as a mother.

Looking back over a decade of experiences – sunrises, math homework, countless bags of Goldfish crackers (which I still buy) – I’m glad it’s there.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.