As I push my one year old son, Freddy, around the supermarket in a trolley, we often see elderly ladies and gentlemen going about their shopping. They watch as I fight to keep Freddy in his seat, pick up my car keys for the fiftieth time and feed him the end of a baguette to delay the inevitable meltdown.
Most chat to Freddy, some make funny faces at him and others let him grab their noses. But, every time, there is at least one elderly lady who doesn't interact with us. She just watches. Always with the same expression on her face.
It's a look that I have only recently begun to understand.
It's a look that says I remember the days when I pushed my children in a trolley and plied them with snacks to keep them quiet while I shopped. I remember pointing out the names of all the fruit and vegetables, just as you're doing, to help them learn the words. When they started to tire of sitting in the trolley, I remember planting kisses on their little button noses and hearing them squeal with joy. And I remember feeling frustrated when they threw food on the floor, had tantrums and made the shopping trip last three times longer than it needed to.
It's the look that says, I remember the days when my house was full of dirty dishes, toys, children's artwork, muddy footprints, clutter and mess. I remember the noise being at such a level that I couldn't hear myself think.
It's a look that says I remember wiping snotty noses, tying shoelaces, having my hair pulled and my skin pinched. I remember my arms being constantly full - be it with children, washing, shopping or coats and shoes. I remember being perpetually exhausted, always running late, never seeing the bottom of the laundry basket and spending half the day picking things up off the floor.
It's a look that says no matter how many times you kiss those chubby cheeks, sing nursery rhymes, read stories and wipe away tears it will never be enough.
It's a look that advises me I should use my phone less and appreciate each moment more.
It's a look that tells me to place less importance capturing every moment on my camera and more effort imprinting each memory in my heart.
It's a look that says you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
It's a look that says, 'I know how you long for a lie in, a tidy house, a relaxing bath and a few minutes of peace and quiet. That time will come sooner than you think. And only then will you realise how deafening silence can be. As time passes, your little ones will grow and their little ones will grow too. And then they won't need you anymore. One day, you will see a mother and baby in the supermarket, just as I see you now. And you will give her a look that says, 'You lucky mum - I really miss those days.''