jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

In Case They Need Me


Mica handed me one of those annoying Tinker Toy pieces today. You know the one. The wooden wheel with the holes for spokes? And of course, there was a yellow spoke stubbornly jammed in the center hole.

“Here, Mom. Get this out.”

“Um, Mica,” pulling with all my might, trying my teeth, fumbling in the kitchen drawer for pliers, “I just don’t know if I can do that.”

“But Mo-omm. That’s why you work out.”


Then Jasper wanted me to carry him from the car to the back porch. By his ankles. And he’s well over 50 lbs.

“I don’t know Jasper. I think I could crack your head on the pavement…”

“But that’s why you work out, Mom.”

Are they messing with me? And I checked his face for any signs of his being disingenuous.

Because besides loving the peace and quiet of a good run, and besides representing for a family of disabilities, that is one of the most important reasons I exercise. So that in an emergency I could carry my kids to safety, so I could fight off a marauder, and so I’ll live to be at least 95 years old… in case they need me.

My son is just starting to go through that stage, the obsession with all the bad things that could happen to people. His teacher actually mentioned it very gently to us during conferences last week. “Jasper loves history, which is just amazing. I mean, he knew where the Nile was when we did Chicken Soup with Rice, but… well… he tends to share the gore of history with the other kids a bit too eagerly.”

The Titanic, the Civil War, slavery (in the form of Harriet Tubman taking a rock to the head), 9/11, the Trail of Tears. He came home with a book with the Hindenberg in it last week from the library. Oh, the humanity! And the holocaust couldn’t be far behind. Oh, yes. I remember those days of soaking up all the someone-else’s-misery I could find.

As a kid, I didn’t just revel in the horror of it, I used it to plan. What do you do if the house catches on fire, Childhood Jennie? Me? Well, I’d wet my white blanket in the upstairs bathroom, get my older brother Butchie out of his adult-sized crib, wrap him in it and carry his 60 lbs. down the hall, through the flames, down the steps and out the door to safety (and yes, I had a back-up plan for when the stairwell was on fire, too.) If dad has another mini-stroke while driving, what do you do? Gently help him steer the car over to the side of the road and reach over and put your foot on the brake until we’re next to the curb, then wait for the stroke to pass to see if he can finish driving us home or if one of us would have to do it (this actually happened, my not-yet-driving-age sister was the hero that time.) What do you do if dad gets low blood sugar and passes out, but mom’s not around? Orange juice with glucose pills. Maybe some insulin but you have to prick his finger first to test his sugar and call the doctor to see how much insulin. Duh, I knew that in third grade.

family pic, 1976

Family picture, 1976
Childhood Jennie on the left.

So when I toss the keys to the minivan on the counter as I head out the door and say to the babysitter, “Here are the keys to the minivan in case the levees break and you need to drive to higher ground,” well, I mean it… a little.

My kids all more or less learned my cellphone number (to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb) by age three. They know where to wait after escaping a fire (the tree with the acorns), what to do if they lose me at a store or fair (find a police officer, someone who works there or a woman who reminds them of Mama and has kids, in order of preference) and never ever to go with anyone who offers gifts, candy or to “take them to Mama”. The last safety tip I tried with role play last summer only to find out that at least one child would go with the man with the candy almost every time (and don’t try it crazy blog-stalkers, I can kick your ass, remember? I work out.)

I know I can’t plan for everything, and I don’t. Really. I don’t know kung fu (or maybe I do, crazy blog-stalker, maybe I do) and my CPR is shoddy. Sometimes I can’t plan much beyond 5 pm tomorrow. But I do try to be prepared, mentally and yes, physically. And more than anything, I hope my kids never have to plan how they could rescue me, or their Dad, or their siblings.

I’m glad they walk around, disingenuous or not, saying that this is why Mom works out.

So that for now at least, she can fix anything.

What? I'm totally listening. Tell me. No, really, tell me.

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This entry was posted on November 13, 2013 by in Memory, Surviving Motherhood, The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .

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