4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I am Sisyphus. At least that’s what I tell myself most days as I walk through the house matching shoes and placing them in rows, hanging jackets on hooks, replacing pillows on the couch, putting toilet paper rolls back on toilet paper dispensers, collecting Legos to put into the Lego bin, all while amassing an ever-growing pile of dirty towels and socks and pajamas that I lug up the stairs to the laundry room.
And for that one brief moment standing in place with the clothes dropped into the washer I breathe the scent of laundry detergent and think, “I did it! I climbed the mountain, woot, woo-…” and then CRASH the Lego bin is overturned and I run to the banister to peer down at… wait for it, apocalyptic Lego mayhem.
And so I trudge back down the stairs gathering the shoes, amassing the dirty towels, pocketing the Monopoly money, and I begin again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Really, it’s actually almost amazing. I mean, a whirling tornado of garbage travels behind me, a Tazmanian Devil stalking my every effort at order, spinning pillows off of couches and books off shelves, and Legos into every nook and cranny.
And at the end of the day when collections of words like, “Put your shoes in your cubby”, “Don’t hit your sister” and “PickuptheLegos, pickuptheLegos, pickuptheLegos” drift near the ceiling like helium balloons from last week’s party, then my husband comes home and he kisses me. And to show me he cares about my well-being he averts his eyes from the pillows on the floor peppered by Legos and the piles of dirty dishes (What did we even use all these dishes for? Is that Play-doh in that pie pan? Is that an earthworm in a bowl?!) and he lovingly asks, “So, um, what did you do today??”
“I am Sisyphus,” I want to say. “I feel like I did everything but apparently I’m right back where I started. Now move so I can (huff, puff) roll this scritch-scratching stone up this (huff, puff) mountain… Again.”
We are both competitive, my husband and I. And we need to be go, go, go people. Right before a vacation to Nova Scotia, early in our marriage, we received cheap pocket pedometers as a party favor. Seriously. And we were so inspired to clock steps that we walked blisters into our heals on Nova Scotia’s gorgeous, foggy landscape. Blisters.
Fast forward ten years and my husband heard about these cool updated computer savvy pedometers. Brilliant! We went all in. Two Fitbits delivered to our doorstep, a quick lesson from my husband on all the days’ fun facts readily available at our individual accounts, and we were off.
Now, while I occasionally have found myself doing jumping jacks in front of my computer in my pajamas at 11:56 trying desperately to reach my day’s “goal” before the clock strikes midnight, and while perhaps my husband and I did do a manic dance party on New Year’s Eve after downing a glass of champagne in order to see who could make their arm buzz before the new year (I did, but I may be remembering wrongly because the champagne really went right to my head with all that dancing…), well, I have to say that Fitbit, in the aggregate, makes me feel better.
I haven’t written the next great novel or helped give medical care to desperate addicts, or worked to achieve legal reform in order to protect unions, or protected the right of same sex couples to marry, or written a script for CSI, like all the people who lived on my floor senior year of college. (Over-achievers…) and sometimes this breaks my heart. A tiny piece of me is disappointed in me, hungering for their seemingly greener grass just on the other side of their heroic Facebook updates. How have I failed to do anything of import?! Anything!
But my Fitbit can tell you: my feet have weight, these footsteps exist. At the end of a positively productless day, when I haven’t created anything or gone anywhere of import or talked to a Supreme Court justice, when my husband asks what I’ve done on this day, I can tap my arm and watch the five lights dance. At least 15,000 steps, often 20,000, and occasionally beyond. I have no idea where those steps happened, which child caused the greatest contribution to my forced march. Was it the berry-picking, the learning to ride a two-wheeler, the building of the dam along the edge of the sandbar on the beach at sunset, the dance party, the laundry or dishes or damn Legos? Could be anything. Likely it’s everything.
Last night, after a few days spent with one of those truly amazing college roommates of mine, my husband asked if I was jealous of what she did. “Jealous? Um, no…” I replied. “Do you wish you were out there too?” he wondered. “That’s not quite it either.” Because I love that I can live this life with my children. I’m not sure I can even imagine doing this any other way. But there is something. In gaining this beautiful life with these amazing kids, I gave something else up, something I can’t put into words most days. And it’s okay.
Then my husband told me he was proud of me. He said he was grateful.
Someday they may look back and say that they felt like I contributed to helping them grow into happy, healthy adults. Someday they may marvel and wonder how I did it all. (Probably neither, actually. They’re pretty full of themselves and I probably yell too much.) Maybe someday I’ll actually do something remarkable in its own right again. But for now this is enough. I did some stuff. I’m not sure what, but I did some big, big stuff.
I’m here, rolling my stone up the motherhood mountain. Again. And Fitbit is along for the ride.