jen groeber: mama art

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

A Blanket of Children

These days seem to be more and more filled with distancing moments. Moments when I try to manage my five-year-old daughter’s Mean Girl moments and she rolls her eyes and calls me Bad Mama. Or we battle over wearing shoes outside to avoid ticks and prickers when all they want is to feel the new green grass under their feet.

Even the three-year-old seems to be over me for the most part, except for when it comes to walking down the stairs which she couldn’t possibly be expected to do on her own. But I fear even that may be more of a princess thing than an attachment-to-Mama thing.

Mama managing a Mean Girl moment  April 2014

Mama managing a Mean Girl moment
April 2014

Last week it happened again, another first, but a bad one.

I had just picked up Jasper in the minivan. It was the tell-me-about-your-day portion of our regularly scheduled program while his three-year-old sister slept in her carseat.

What did you have for lunch? Who did you sit next to at lunch? What did you do in art? What was the best part of your day? The worst?

Uncharacteristically, I was getting a lot of harumph, and hmmmm, and mumble, mumble. Annoyed, I pressed.

What’s with the mood, dude?

He mumble-mumbled his response.


The face from the back row
April 2014

There was the thing with the carseat that’s not a booster when he first got into the car. You know, when he said, “Why do I have to have a carseat when all the other kids have a booster seat?” to which I kindly replied, “Saying all the other kids have is officially the lamest and least effective way of getting anything from me ever. Also, I won’t buy a new piece of plastic when your old piece of plastic is safe enough but just not cool enough. Remember the floating island of plastic garbage in the ocean?!”

So I guess I could see why he was initially peeved. But when I pressed on, he brought up that I had been mean that morning. Like, 8 HOURS AGO.

And he was at least partially right. I had taken away his right to do something he habitually liked to do because he was taking too long doing what he needed to do, which was eat his toast. So sure, I could’ve been more flexible. I mean, sometimes a Mama just gets tired…

And therefore I did the thing my kids hate to do (and they’re not even allowed to use the word hate.) I did the newly instituted, four prong apology which culminates in the dreaded asking for forgiveness.

And he said NO! He wouldn’t forgive me. Crap. No wonder they hate this crappy apology system. (Really it’s amazing. Check it out at cuppacocoa.)

So there it is. Actually, there they both are: two new firsts. This was the first time I’d gotten the silent treatment from any of my kids. AND it was the first time that any of them had refused to forgive me. (Please note: he later forgave me in order to wheedle another chapter from our current Andrew Clements book at bedtime, but that goes without saying.)


The third Easter egg hunt had a bunny
April 2014

Fast forward through a particularly exhausting weekend. What with the Easter egg hunts (catch the plural) and all the Peep eating and the salty ham and so on, I started feeling blech. And then blechier. And then blechiest.

It was that sloppy kind of mother-who-doesn’t-take-care-of-herself ill that could be nothing or it could be life-threatening, hard to tell. Admittedly, the symptoms could all have probably been cured by following my husband’s loving refrain: “Jen, lift with your knees not your back! How about you eat something green today and hold off on the Peeps. Take your vitamins and calcium!! Honey, it’s late, come to bed.”

But still, who has time for all that, I ask you?

At any rate, I began feeling bizarrely ill, so bizarrely ill that I bizarrely left all four kids with my husband and went off to the doctor’s office. By myself. The kids were aghast. They usually go with Mama to the doctors. Even the dermatologist. Even the lady-bits doctor. They go with me everywhere.

“But I wanna go with Maaaamaaaaa…” was their collective response.

When I returned a few hours later they searched me out immediately. And one by one, they all came wandering up, tentatively patting my hand, rubbing my hair, pouring full bodies across my achey legs, draping an arm over my slumped shoulders.

It was a poignant moment, actually. There I was, feeling all lousy and vulnerable, knowingly on the cusp of having my children wanting and needing to be free of me, at least a bit, at least when it came to things like booster seats and what’s appropriate to say to their friends.

But there they were, a blanket of children. Wrapping and warming and comforting.

There’s hope then. Amidst the silent treatments and “You’re mean!” and “That’s not FAIR!”, it is possible that we are forever inexplicably, inextricably linked, a ghostly umbilical cord connecting us together.

[This was inspired in part by a gorgeous recent post by a lyrical blogger, Jenn at Goodnight Already.]

17 comments on “A Blanket of Children

  1. kaidenwinters
    April 23, 2014

    Reblogged this on 14 Cupcakes and commented:
    This makes sense…

  2. Burns the Fire
    April 23, 2014

    Heart growing in the café on your ‘blanket of children.’ Hope you feel better soon. Off to check out the other Jenn. xx

    • jgroeber
      April 24, 2014

      Nothing that a load of medicine and a kid blanket can’t cure. 😉 And I know you’ll enjoy the other Jenn!

  3. ianmooremorrans
    April 23, 2014

    You are eloquent, as always – even about “icky” days! And, oh, do you bring up memories. About the uncooperation, tantrums, silent treatment and bad behaviour: I watch my daughter dealing with her little ones and have a deja vu moment, plus a secret smile to see her getting her own back. And on occasion I recall those far gone days when I was a little one and emulating my grandchildren’s and children’s behaviour. What goes around, comes around. Thank God we all have been covered by a “blanket of children” when we really needed it. Thanks for the memories.
    Gayle Moore-Morrans

    • jgroeber
      April 24, 2014

      Oh, thank you. I’m so glad to bring you back to these days, even the stubborn, naughty ones. I had to laugh. I was such a good girl, at least as far as my mother knew. So when my kids are openly naughty or defiant I’m always a bit surprised. Then I turn to my lovely mother-in-law and she’s laughing. Because sometimes their most creative naughtiness reminds her so much of my husband!

  4. adventureswiththepooh
    April 23, 2014

    You are allowed to feel blech and not be perfect. You are perfect in your imperfection, mama…now go get under that blanket of love.

    • jgroeber
      April 24, 2014

      Oh, feeling blechiest. But the blanket of children cures oh-so-many ills Sometimes I swear that at least one of my children can perform reiki with those cool little hands they pat me with.

  5. Margie S
    April 24, 2014

    For a mom, that is a difficult one to experience. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have any problem with this. May you never hear the “H” word. I have, although not frequently, and I will always remember the first time…for both of my children.

    • jgroeber
      April 24, 2014

      It’s hard not to internalize the bad stuff some days. The blanket of children helps, though. And the good thing about having so many children is that statistically it’s unlikely that they will all despise me simultaneously unless I really, really deserve it.

  6. jennbird77
    April 24, 2014

    I loved reading this. You’ve helped prepare for the day when my son is old enough to hold a grudge for eight hours. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a week where newfound independence is temporarily suspended. My son is transitioning to a new preschool right now, and is thus especially lovely and cling-y. Sleep-breathing right next to me right now actually.

    • jgroeber
      April 24, 2014

      I sigh. Even my six-year-old will switch to a snuggly, clinging bear in a heartbeat. And the way he waves to me when he sees me eight cars away in the pick-up line at school at the end of the day? It’s like I’m a rock star. I’ve actually taken photos. In that moment he’s totally forgotten the fact that he’s about to enter a car where he’ll have to sit in the dorkiest car seat ever. He’s just so happy to see his Mama in her dirty minivan.

  7. Nadia
    April 25, 2014

    This made me smile. Hope you are feeling less blechy. x

    • jgroeber
      April 25, 2014

      Nothing that a boatload of yummy medicine (and maybe a teeny, tiny glass of wine) won’t cure.

  8. Judi
    April 26, 2014

    This was definitely a trip down memory lane for me. While you will undoubtedly forget the feelings of illness, you will never forget the instant therapeutic effect of the smell of your child’s hair and the softness of their tiny fingers stroking your face or hands. Pharma companies be damned…that human connection, even in a weakened state, is clearly the best medicine. It also reminds your children that you are indeed not super human all the time.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Yes, yes. I swear my son has reiki in his fingers. So soothing.
      And sadly, I think I remind them every day that I’m not super human! Ha!
      Thank you for the comment and as always, for reading.

  9. Rivki Silver
    April 26, 2014

    Aww, I love the imagery! And I was thinking about how my five-year-old is still in a 5-point harness and most of his friends and classmates are in a booster, but he hasn’t seemed to notice yet. I shall prepare myself for this scenario. Totally.

    • jgroeber
      April 29, 2014

      Ha! It’s only a matter time. My sister, the pediatrician, has very slim children who were in booster seats until they were about 12. They were mortified, daily. But if you steamroll through, safety first and all that, it generally works out in the end. It’s hard to complain to your therapist someday that you had a bad mother because she kept you in a safer car seat. Or at least that’s what I’m banking on.
      Thanks for the comment!

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