4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I am a circus performer. I am the tightrope walker, the fire breather (although usually only in the morning before brushing my teeth), the clown in the striped shirt doing jazz hands for a laugh, the juggler of crockpots and soccer cleats and overdue library books, the sexy woman jumping through hula hoops, the spackled old woman in go-go boots herding cats and dogs. Yup, I’m her, too.
And I am an acrobat, twisting and turning jumping from thing to thing overhead, grabbing hold and letting go.
I wasn’t always this way. I used to be a teacher. But then I had kids and my body turned into a living human clown car.
You know, “C’mon! There’s no way another kid could come out of… holy cow! Another kid just came out of her. Sweartagod!” I think that was when I joined the circus.
And Mom-ing meant no longer teaching, and with that went so much of the day-to-day chicken soup for my soul. There’s very little positive reinforcement from an infant you’re trying to breastfeed but he has an ear infection and he’s cutting a tooth and you don’t know that because you actually just met him.
My new job became playgrounds and early intervention appointments for gross motor and fine motor followed by aquatic therapy and hippotherapy, music classes at the library and early learning classes at the local early learning sort of place for delayed kids. Cheerios and hotdogs were cut into half moons; Goldfish, Bunnies, and apple slices were shoved into pie holes only to be shat out three hours later. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
And as I brought my kids to the pool, the farms, the parks, the bird sanctuaries, whenever I’d see a cool new Mom, it’s embarrassing to admit, I’d try to pick her up.
“Do you come here often? Because our kids really seem to get along? Er, would you ever, I mean, if you ever wanted to, which is to say, if we exchanged numbers maybe we could meet up again? On purpose?”
But usually, actually, almost always- phht. Not so much.
I get it. She was busy, I was busy. The timing was wrong. We had disparate interests, different taste in minivans. It just wouldn’t have worked out! Maybe her dance card was full. Perhaps I reeked of desperation and butt ointment. I definitely reeked of soured breast milk and kid pee.
And so now, this weekend, seven years later, when I stood on the sideline of the first U8 soccer game of the season and I knew moms who didn’t even know each other, such that I was making introductions, it felt like a miracle. And these aren’t just people people, these are amazing people, working moms and stay-at-home moms, community activists, world-changers, artists and healers and Super Moms, at least they are to me.
Ah, still, I’m not quite getting at the heart of it.
Since becoming a mother I have had those days where the kids were just too much and I was crouched down low, holding back frustrated tears in the pre-school hallway and some Mama friend reached out and fixed it. Or the day we were at the autumn festival and one of my kids just disappeared? And as I ran frantically around, having left my other three with a fairly random Audobon guy, my cell phone kept buzzing with a call from a Mama friend. And so I ran back to the parking lot, the final place I would check before I… well, what do you eventually do when you’ve lost a child at an autumn festival?! There I saw the friend, the one trying to call me, and she was standing by her car with her phone in one hand and my four-year-old daughter in her other.
I have stood on a stone bridge over the marshes in 10° weather rubbing the back of a friend who was doubled over, not from the cold, but from sadness with the sudden realization that our parents will die before us, that for some of us, this may be sooner than we thought, it may be imminent. It may be horrible. I stood and rubbed her back so that she knew she was not alone in this, so that I knew that I was not alone in this.
We have packed bags and sand toys and bundled children and gone to the beach on brilliantly cold days. We have picked strawberries and raspberries and apples, built snowmen and sledded, hunted crabs and monarch butterflies, following the seasons as our kids get bolder, more cranky; as they get stomach bugs and lice, allergies and weird diagnosises, as we realize that they might read first or last, be strongest or weakest.
I’m not sure how these friendships will grow and change as the seasons pass and soccer turns to lacrosse or baseball, theater for one and Lego robotics for another, or as we go back to work, or begin to volunteer, take up tennis or running marathons, as some get divorced or move, as we need to care for infants less and our parents more. As perhaps, someday, I almost cannot bear to write it, we have to care for one another because of some sickness or horror that is too much, too much. No, I do not know what our next challenges look like.
Yet I know that I am an acrobat spinning through the air, letting go and taking hold, attempting feats far bigger than I, secure in the knowledge that I have a safety net of mother friends to catch me. And I know that I am also a rope, knotted with other ropes, creating a web of friendship that allows my fellow acrobats to let go and take hold, knowing that they are safe, too.
I don’t say how grateful I am nearly enough. But, I would guess, if given the free moment, after drop-off, before taking the car to the mechanic, in-between cleaning up breakfast and planning dinner, after bath time but before reading The Bobbsey Twins, we would all sit for a moment and say, “Thank you so much for all that you are.”
Please know that those days when we both turn away to our individual minivans after a run or a chat or a hug and I say, “Love you!” I actually mean that I love you and that I will do my best to never let you fall, and if you do, I will be there to catch you.
(* Let it be known that I wish I had taken more photos, better photos, of my dear friends near and far. Because no one wants a toothy selfie on a blog. Sigh. I just didn’t take enough lyrical hipstamatic photos to suffice…)
Mother, artist, daughter, wife, and friend: with four children in three years things get pretty crazy. Finding time to reflect on motherhood, identity and making art, brings me back to sanity (or as close as I’ll get in this lifetime.)