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