4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Mica lost his first tooth today. It’s been wiggling in his mouth, nestled in his tiny deep-ocean gums like a pearl, since mid-winter. Today, in honor of Roald Dahl, it came out while he was sinking his teeth into the first giant peach of the season.
Leaving the grocery store with the peaches in a bag tucked in our cart, right before the momentous event, I saw an older woman walk by us, turning to watch us with a look on her face, old or tired or tinged with anger. It may have been because I’d opened the trunk of the minivan remotely, the sweeping trunk door almost hitting her.
But it seemed like more than that. If it had been a movie it would have happened in slo-o-o-o-ow motion, her pushing an empty cart, dodging the lifting door, searching the parking lot to see who had caused this near assault, me bent in half, pushing a grocery cart with three children and $276 worth of groceries. Our eyes met.
Future past, past future.
I am afraid that someday I will be that woman and I will walk alone through Market Basket fumbling for my keys, my purse, my wallet, my glasses, my list, scanning the parking lot for something I’ve missed because I will feel like I lost something, like I left something important behind. Because I will be alone.
I am afraid that I have not paid enough attention to these days that are speeding, faster and faster, as each of my children grow and change and mature in these utterly strange and magical ways.
I am afraid that those future days when my children have moved on with their lives, that my husband and I will sit across from each other in a restaurant, both sagging and distracted, with nothing to say, not at all like the vibrant, stylish seniors we’d imagined.
Once started, I couldn’t stop.
4. I am afraid that when my kids all begin school I will not be able to write the book I’ve promised myself I’d try to write or get the big art exhibits I’d envisioned.
5. I am afraid that when my kids all begin school that my life will actually feel the same as it does now, that somehow all that found time will get swallowed whole by auctions and birthdays, doctors appointments and laundry, and worse yet, that these important Mom things will feel small compared to the worldly things I’d envisioned.
6. At night when I wake up I am afraid that someone is creeping into my room to kill my husband and I,
7. or I am afraid that someone is sneaking stealthily down the hall to steal one of my children, like that little girl out west who wasn’t brought home for years and years.
8. I am afraid that I don’t know which is worse, losing one child or having all grow up having lost their parents tragically.
9. I am afraid they are both worse. (They are both worse.)
10. I am afraid that I will not do a good enough job protecting my children
11. from intruders
12. from classmates
13. from their own adolescent bad decisions
14. or from themselves and the voices in their heads that might someday tell them that they are not good enough, thin enough, smart enough, talented enough.
15. I am afraid that I worry about the wrong things, that the time I’ve put into this should have been put towards that, that I’ve spent my attention and time and spiritual energy foolishly.
16. I am afraid that they will only remember my petty mean moments rather than how I lay awake thinking about them, that they will never know that their father and I go on date night and talk about them, about the funny things or the sad things, our hopes and fears for them, the beautiful things they do that stop our hearts right in our chests…
Just now, driving home from school with these fears building and swirling in my mind, Mica lost his tooth somewhere on the floor of the minivan.
As I pulled into the driveway, he climbed out of his car seat in the back row looking positively despondent.
“I lost my tooth.”
“I told you not to take it to school. I told you not to take it out of the plastic cup with the lid.”
“I put it on my knee and then it fell off.”
“It’s gone? What were you thinking?”
And I had that sudden loss swirling in that list of fears. His first tooth. Another child misplacing a tooth. I will not have this bother me less just because it happens every time! That was a tiny part of his body now laying on the floor of the dirtiest minivan, among the crumbled rice cakes (which look shockingly like a baby tooth, it turns out), the Fig Newman dust, the crushed Corn Chex.
And so I took the car seat out, disassembled it in the driveway just as it started to rain. I swept the minivan and then pawed through every disgusting piece of detritus as the rain melted it all into worthless sludge.
Mica schlumped away and then started playing with his siblings in the rain, laughing and running and being free. I wanted to be furious.
Why was I the only one who cared about this?
Later, after I’d put the car back together and come in out of the rain, I found Mica in his room playing quietly with his Perplexus ball all by himself.
He looked up at me with his little wizened eyes.
“Mica, I just want to let you know that even when you can’t show you care about something, that even when you don’t know how to care about something like losing this tiny piece of you, I want you to know that I care. I will always care.”
“I know, Mama. I know.”
(Inspired by the loss of Mica’s tooth, the woman in Market Basket parking lot and the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, listing towards something.)