4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Talking with a parking lot Mama friend outside of the pre-school, we watched as our kids threw sticks to fake the geese out (farm school… seriously.) It was the first day back from Thanksgiving “break” and we both looked and sounded a little stoned, but in a bad way.
“I’m just so tired because the only time anyone leaves me alone is when they’re all sleeping so after they’re all in bed I walk around the house and do whatever I want… like I own the place. And then I’m up, like, all night.”
“Yes! I do one-tenth of each of the thirty things I meant to get done that day! And then it’s midnight, and nothing is actually done…”
“My whole Thanksgiving was like that! I realized I needed a light bulb from the laundry room upstairs but then I saw there was laundry that needed to get washed. I needed to put vinegar on the stains so I went down to the kitchen but we didn’t have vinegar. I went to add vinegar to the grocery list on my phone and then I saw that there was a text that required me to look up the date of something on the computer. On my way there someone needed their butt wiped and on my way back from my bathroom to the kitchen sink I walked by the boys sewing something. They hollered that they needed another needle so I went up to the laundry room to get a sewing needle and realized I needed a light bulb. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”
“If You Give a Moose a Muffin…”
Let me explain. In the book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, there’s this moose bizarrely staring in the kitchen window. The kid gives voyeur moose a muffin. The moose eats all the rest of the muffins with blackberry jam. They decide to buy more muffin mix; he busts a button off a sweater. While sewing the moose decides to make a puppet, then a puppet show, which involves paint and sheets and the whole living room getting trashed like a rock star in the Ritz Carlton. He sort of cleans the mess, hangs the sheet outside, sees the blackberry bushes and (spoiler alert) remembers he wants more muffins.
I think it’s a cruel metaphor for the impenetrable and inexplicably haunting purposelessness of mothering small children. It’s a Sisyphus and Groundhog Day mash-up. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It is every day of trying very hard to please the moose, but really just trashing the house, and he’s still hungry in the end anyway!
I’ve always been a woman who overextended herself. I literally have assessments from both high school and my third teaching job that use the word “overextended”. And I am absolutely certain that I am not alone in this among my Mama friends. We are cooks, cleaners, doctors, drivers, artists, coaches, writers, teachers, volunteers, advisors, doing it ALL… but for zero pay. And for the ones who work outside the house, it’s their second full-time job, but again, zero pay! We’ve always done some or all of these things, but never under these circumstances, with the exhaustion and the small people following us around yelling at us, whining, hitting our kneecaps and undoing everything the second it’s done.
Then today, I was picking up the mud room that gets trashed every time anyone walks in the house. And I found the gift.
Me MOM. ILAL/WENMEVE9/REDSTOOM9
There it was, clear as a bell and better than gold. “My Mom. I like it when (something, something) reads to me.” And although the picture looked slightly pervy, I’m sure it’s the two of us snuggled in his bed with me reading to him, because that’s what we do almost every night. The rest of the book goes on equally as clear…
“I like when my Mom plans playdates.”
I have no idea. Seriously, none. Please share if you can translate. It does begin, “I like when my Mom…”
But my son used “choice time” at school when he could have been reading or working on a loom potholder to write this about me.
And although I could be hypercritical and note that there is in fact an arrow through my head on the cover, I must acknowledge, my head is in the shape of, wait for it… a heart. Tear.
On Wednesday, during a freezing cold run with a besty, she gave me the hairy eyeball (or perhaps a frostbite eyeball? Hard to tell.) And through clenched jaws she asked why I’d taken “F-f-forever ” to answer her text the day before.
“Look,” I answered, with chattering teeth, “G-g-g-ive a M-m-m-moose a Muffin day.”
“Ugh. G-g-got it,” she replied. She totally understood.
We’re all in this parenting, mothering shitstorm together. We’re rolling our huge stone up the hill over and over while trying to make Andie MacDowell love us in a day. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. We are living those days where one thing requires another thing which needs another thing which leaves us with seemingly nothing but a weird hungry moose.
Until we find the handmade book, the crumpled valentine, the darling drawing and realize that they don’t in fact undo everything that we do. Just much of it. But hopefully not the parts that matter most.