4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Driving in the minivan, cranking the Coldplay on the radio, after my first official pre-school drop-off for my youngest daughter, and I was suddenly, for the first time in forever, alone. I inhaled deeply and was struck by the passage of time. Where did it go?
Because when you yourself are a kid, time flies. The days are long, sure. Sitting on the curb on a hot New Jersey summer day, throwing rocks at telephone poles for three hours, well that’s the slow movement of the sun, the crawling of an ant. But stack those days together and take a picture of the scene every three months and you realize the world is changing around 5 year-old you.
You’re losing teeth, getting teeth, starting school, riding a bike, learning to read, excited for Christmas, learning to swim, breaking your toe, seeing your parents kiss, getting a baby brother, listening to your parents fight, wishing those kids liked you, learning an instrument, getting confirmed, joining a team, getting kissed, going to the prom, graduating, leaving home, making friends, having s-e-x, breaking up, getting a job, drinking too much, losing things, figuring out what you love, who you love and then SCREECH!
Then you get a job and start making car payments, date someone, learn some stuff, head home for the holidays, repeat… repeat… repeat… repeat… It all slows way down, I mean w-a-a-a-a-y do-o-o-o-o-o-wn, right? And for fifteen years you just don’t get older. Or at least, I did not get older. Really. Look at the pictures (she types optimistically). From one year to the next and the next and the next the change is almost imperceptible. Same face, no lines, same butt, same clothes. Time. Stood. Still.
And then maybe you have some babies.
Then your life is like a flip book. Like each page is a season and the seasons stack on top of each other and you put your thumb to the edge of the pages and Flip. Flipflipflipflipflipflipflip. I am not sure how to reconcile this with my empty minivan on the first Monday back-to-school and some of the first free hours to contemplate the passage of time in six years. Six years! It’s like six years ago I split in half, two halves of a whole. There’s Mama Jen who was flying, whirring, whizzing by so fast, she never left a footprint, and then there’s original Jen, who was creative, had a voice, was a doer, who pretty much Rip-Van-Winkled it for six years. They’re both me, but neither seems in focus.
Because in six years those babies turn from breakable gelatinous love-lumps to sturdy kids jumping out of the van and running onto the playyard to hug their teachers and pick their friends. To lose their teeth and get their teeth. Flipflipflipflipflipflipflip. And then six more years and six years more and they’re gone.
The bottom line? Time passed while we were changing the diapers on four babies, washing onesies, spooning in food, brushing hair, patching jeans, wiggling loose teeth. What in the world does the next picture hold for this Mama? For any of us, really?
Take us out, Coldplay.
I turn the music up, I got my records on
I shut the world outside until the lights come on
Maybe the streets alight, maybe the trees are gone
I feel my heart start beating to my favorite song
And all the kids they dance, all the kids all night
Until Monday morning feels another life
I turn the music up, I’m on a roll this time