Sabien takes me for walks. Well, “runs” would be more accurate. He is a one-speed kid: flat out. At almost 17 months, he has about the same energy level as a nuclear reactor. And “outside” is where he wants to be. “Out” he will say, pulling at my pant leg and pointing his finger at the door. Unable to resist his slightest desire, I will take him outside and away we go. It’s all I can do to keep up with him. He’s making me young again.

On our walk yesterday, after he had finished inspecting the tractor, kicking the tires (“ti-ur” he says) and making tractor noises, we made our way up the hill behind the house. The higher we got, the more the view below us changed. Sun slanted through low-hanging clouds, setting fire to patches of color strewn across the valley all the way to Streaked Mountain. Our house looked much smaller from up here and quaint, with smoke drifting up from the chimney and clothes billowing out on the line. I doubt that Sabien appreciated the sight as much as his grandmother did, but I’m sure the impression of it will stay in his head helping to create his view of the world.

Having Sabien in my life has softened me up. Not that I was hard before, but now I am mush. Watching him makes me aware of how tough some little kids have it. Mostly I am thinking of other countries where children have to endure war, who have never known anything except hardship and fear. In many places around the world, war or not, children don’t have food, or safe places to be. Even here in the richest country in the world, there are children who live on the street and go without the basic needs of every human being.

Look at that!

I spend a lot of time thinking about how unfair the world is, but I don’t know how we can fix this injustice other than to make sure the kids in our care get the very best that we can give. And most of what we can give is our time. What kids need almost as much as food and safety is someone to pay attention to them.

When my two were little, they would say, “Mama, look!” probably a hundred times a day. Fortunately, I was able to stay home with them while they were growing up, so I was able to “look” when they wanted me to. But mothers getting to stay home with their children is unusual in today’s world.

Not too long ago I watched a TV program about mothers who had left lucrative careers to be stay-at-home moms. Mothers staying home with their babies was newsworthy? Obviously it was, and the sad thing was how Leslie Stahl wanted them to justify this unorthodox decision. Career women, well-educated and destined for the “big league” where only men have gone before, had abdicated their positions, left the corporate world for the “lowly” position of “playing in the sandbox” with their kids. It sounded as if these women had let down their sisters.

“What is this going to do to the advances women have made in the corporate world?” was the accusation.

Kids, cares and careers

These women simply wanted to be with their children and believed they could “catch up” with their careers later when the children were older. Why isn’t that okay? It made perfect sense to me. I have never thought waiting until 40 to have children was a good idea. Why not have children first, then go to school and get a career? It would certainly cure that “empty nest” syndrome.

Beginning a career at 40 seems more practical than having a child at 40. In today’s world, working beyond retirement age is getting more and more commonplace.

Of course, this would not work for every woman. Maybe not any. The argument for the other position is equally as valid. Day care, the argument goes, is actually good for the kids. I hope this is true, because there are many kids being raised by day-care providers. Without question, we live in a confusing and complex world. More than half the mothers in the United States are single mothers.

They have no options. They must put food on the table.

I don’t have an answer about what to do with the children. Every woman must decide for herself. I guess the ideal is for every woman to have the choice, and for every child to have what he or she needs to grow into a healthy, loving adult.

As for my darling boy, his mom is working too. Before he came along, I used to say, “I’m not going to be a “built-in” baby sitter for my grandchildren.”

What a bunch of silliness that was. Now I call up and say, “Can I come and get him?” As I write this, his mother is pulling into the driveway, and I can hear him squealing at the top of his lungs, “Lollie!” “Bampaw!” My cup runneth over.

Jeanette Baldridge is a writer and teacher who lives in West Paris, who is a regular contributor to this column. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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