4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I don’t stand still. I inherited that from my mother, who wore a bikini the summer after her fifth child was born and looked pretty good in it, for the 70’s. When asked how she stayed so trim my mother would scoff and say, “I don’t have time to eat and I’m always running somewhere!” And while it may be important to note that the only person in my whole family to ever put on actual sneakers and “run” somewhere was me, I will say that my mother never stood still. And wherever she walked, she walked fast. Trying to keep up with her at the Cherry Hill Mall at Christmas-time was an athletic feat fit for the Summer Olympics.
And so now, I do not stand still. Chasing these kids around, filling every moment with enough activities to keep them engaged, excited, not fighting, and also, to bolster the “gross motor delays” of one child who-shall-not-be-named, well it keeps me running. Also, I will push a jog stroller with 80 lbs. of baby flesh in the snow if it will allow me the opportunity to run run, sneakers, spandex and all.
In discussing the thing that is evidence of each individual’s inherent craziness one of my mama friends once observed that mine was “frenetic pace.”
“You’re the go, go, go, something-to-do, never-stop person, Jen. That’s your crazy.”
My husband got a pedometer to measure his footsteps around his school as a way to make sure he was staying connected enough with his faculty by ‘walking the building’ so I snatched it for a typical Wednesday and measured away. The typical adult aims for 5,000 steps to stay healthy and 7,000 steps is a great goal, they say. 12,000 is extremely active. I clocked slightly over 22,000 steps. Crazy, right?
So why all the running around, Groeber, you ask? Because I sat as a child. I sat indoors babysitting my severely retarded brother, watching every episode of the Brady Bunch and Charles in Charge and the Dukes of Hazard and every other awesome show that created my generation. Even during the summer. I sat and read The Outsiders four times in three days and V.C. Andrews books, one book a day, until every petal, flower and thorn had been, well, deflowered. In seventh grade I read Thomas Hardy because he got me, or got Tess anyway, which in retrospect is the opposite of true. My escape then was mostly inward and so now I keep on moving… outward. I dabbled in yoga, but unless it has “power” in front of it, it’s a tough sell. I mean, I could walk around a playground while breast feeding a three month old. Nuff’ said.
Then last year, for our 10th wedding anniversary Tim and I got each other a stand up paddleboard… which Tim tried twice. Then we decided that Tim and I got me a new paddleboard. I’m not an early morning waker-upper on most days and will stay in bed until the last possible moment… except on a morning when I can sneak outside and paddleboard.
I get up, stand at the window to check for wind and waves, get dressed in my mommy swim skirt and a sports tank, sneak down the stairs avoiding the creaking steps, eat a handful of something sweet, and head outside to the shed for my board and paddle.
As I walk the path to the beach hauling that heavy board and waving my paddle before me to clear the spiderwebs that accumulate throughout the night, I literally salivate at the thought of paddling. Hopping on the board and standing up is a miracle. Floating right out into the cove I do a couple yoga poses to stretch my back. Then I’m off.
Past the rocky outcropping and cormorants that mark the cove entrance and out into open waters, I paddle every day I can. I am standing on the water and it seems as if the clouds are at eye level. The lobstermen often wave, sometimes try to throw me off my board with their wake, sometimes just nod, but it’s all good. Occasionally I relive a conversation in my head or write a chapter in the romantic novel I’ll never finish writing. Some mornings I just look around at people on their decks catching the sunrise with a cup of coffee or the lobster buoys being dragged with the current. I never fall. Here I can breathe. And no one says my name or pulls on my arms or asks me to wipe their butts or touches me.
Even on a windy day when the tide is spinning the board out from under me, I breathe deeply. Sometimes I head north and sometimes south, but either way, for this morning paddle, I stand with my feet firmly rooted.