4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Today, at pre-school drop-off a convergence of exhausted harried Mamas met somewhere between the butterfly garden and the fairy garden.
We stood, sort of gasping for air, and my eyes darted from one Mama to the other.
“I feel like someone took the huge to-do list in my brain, put it in a blender and hit chop,” I blurted out.
“Yes, exactly!” said one mother, nodding.
“What’s that about?” responded another.
“Oh, I see a blog post in that one,” said the last.
This to-do list is in my head, by the way, because my old iphone won’t let me download a new to-do list app because it doesn’t support IOS7 and I can’t get to the Verizon store to upgrade or whatever it is I need to do, and also, because I’m an incompetent person, apparently. I don’t even understand that last sentence I wrote.
So it’s like this: “Get tableware and cutlery for the kindergarten parent reception to be held at our house,” and “Get a babysitter for back-to-school night,” and “What’s for dinner?” and “Empty compost bin,” go spin, whir, chop and become “Get compost for dinner, kindersitter recep, blargh, blurt, blog.” And the maggots hatch in the compost bin on the back porch while all the good babysitters get snatched up by other parents.
And I know this is truly an embarrassment of riches. Or an embarrassment of wishes. Or both. Because I have so much, all I ever wished for: my spouse, my kids, their wonderful schools, my friends, food to prepare, art to make, compost to compost. But perhaps this is also my downfall.
I have so much, and I have the ability to do so much, too. I can host the parent reception and help with the fundraiser and do the exercise class and make the prints for the solo printmaking show and take my kids to piano and soccer and stand by my husband at his big events.
There is a great big life to be lived out there. There are people to meet and adventures to be had and contributions I can make with a smile and endless energy. (Cue jazz handssss.)
Yes. I can do these things, and my mother couldn’t.
My mother was mostly weighted down by never having had the vision to see that that great big world actually existed, or perhaps even more, by the care of a child (or two) with disabilities and a husband she had to hold up, rather than stand beside. Her days were marked by driving us in circles, by pushing the able among us to achieve, by waiting in hospital waiting rooms and managing medicine and surgeries and recovery. Her life was almost entirely marked by us and all our needs.
(I can’t help but wonder for a moment if there wasn’t something to her unflagging focus on us, like a Zen-meditation on the familyfamilyfamilyfamily.)
But, I refuse to only have it be them, and I refuse to have it only be me. I refuse to be the bystander when I can be the facilitator. I just can’t do less when I can actually do more. Perhaps this more, more, more is what they call feminism gone wrong?
Because sometimes I can’t seem to shut off the expectations or the desire to perform and the pace is so fast and then I am the fat awkward guy on the treadmill who can’t keep up with the increasing speed of the turning belt, who stumbles and slips off the back of the treadmill, ending up face down on the rubber gym floor.
I want. I want. I want.
This weekend we packed up a bag of food, threw on some bathing suits and snuck out to the beach with the kids during this bizarre spell of 80˚ weather. Rather than wait in the long line at the grand and infinite beach we usually head to, we found a small beach, more of a boat launching site really, and we set up camp a few feet from our car. The sun was hot, the sand underfoot was perfect, and although the water was appropriately ice cold, the kids went diving and swimming like seals.
The afternoon was uncharacteristic in so many ways for the last weekend in September. A strange lull between things-to-do and places-to-go found us perfectly still in exactly the right time and place, listening to the new David Gray on my husband’s portable speaker, absorbing the sun and breathing the air. Breathing the air. Breathing.
Before long my husband reminded me that it was time to go. I was crestfallen, and I couldn’t explain why.
I want that moment of still and calm, sitting on a sandy beach next to my soulmate while my kids run and dip and argue at the water’s edge. I want to feel that appreciation for all that is miraculously right override the exhaustion and confusion of day-to-day slogging it out. I do not want to focus on horrific acts of injustice, evil and prejudice in our world in order to remind myself that I am in fact lucky beyond words because the two are so absolutely disparate and unrelated as to be absurd. I want to silence the chopped up lists and judging words and nagging guilt that run through my mind most days.
And what I really, really want is that stolen moment of quietude and the inner peace necessary to acknowledge that I already have everything I could possibly need.