jen groeber: mama art

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

The Twins Turn Six (from the Basement Tapes)

Again and again this year I found myself beginning posts I never finished or finishing posts I never polished enough to post. So they’ve sat half-lost in a virtual notepad, like finds on a lobsterman’s beach, half cut rubber band trash, half polished red sea glass treasure. And so I’m taking these moments of 2014 to dig through the sand, dust them off, and share them with you. Consider it my Basement Tapes.

The Twins Turn Six


I went paddling today on my stand up paddleboard, because these days of getting out on the water are becoming fewer and fewer until there are none left, just a paddle board in a dusty shed with spiders inhabiting the handhold while snow piles up outside.

So I wore my wetsuit, the one my sister got for her honeymoon… twenty years ago. The one with the purple legs and the turquoise boobs and the Miami Vice paint splatter details in the shoulder insets.

It looks better on her  Reid  October 2014

It looks better on her
October 2014

The sky was literally leaden, a gray so weighty it pressed on the water, keeping everything flat and calm although a chill breeze was blowing. The cat tails had turned burnt orange in the weeks since we’d last been here, and the air tasted like the salty metal of a rusted lobster trap.

As I walked along the wooden planks through the cat tails I couldn’t help but wonder, if a life were measured in seasons, just four large chunks of time from birth to death, what time of life would I be in now? Fall? Is the cold, bleak, crisply stark winter then the final season?

And what of my children?

Mica’s and Reid’s birthdays were last week. My unlikely pair are now six. I remember when all four of my children were still in cribs and diapers, when I looked at mothers with children who were six and thought, “Those women have crossed over. Those kids are old.”

Because it seems that these two years, the distance between when you stop being four and you start being seven is the largest jump in childhood except maybe the distance between the day before you are born and the day before your second birthday, or perhaps between PSATs and tearfully kissing your Mom good-bye in some stale freshman dorm room.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is the distance between being unable to have children and getting pregnant with twins while raising an infant.

When you’re four you’re home every day playing Chutes and Ladders and thumbing through Sandra Boynton board books about dancing hippos and when you’re seven you’re going to school all day, tearing up a soccer field, attending Legoland birthday parties solo, playing Monopoly and reading Captain Underpants to yourself.

One is all peaceful kumbuyah and carefully curated enriching experiences and the other is my kid repeating whatever some other kids’ dad said after too much beer at dinner last night. Sigh.

Cabot's first Christmas, 2010. Good Santa, but who knows where that beard has been?

I’m laying on the floor behind Santa holding Mica up.
This is what “four under four” looks like.
Christmas 2010

So I volunteered to spend the day at their school on their birthday, get to know their new classmates, lead some printmaking activities, hand out Popsicles, eat lunch in the dining hall on plastic trays with separate indentations for each unique food group.

I watched Mica lay down during circle time while all the other kids sat. He made me a paper Minion purse out of sheets of stapled paper and magic markers. He was happy to sit at my table for gelatin prints but equally thrilled to switch to the vegetable stamping.

He was a free little bird hopping from one activity to the next, proud to show me the saltwater tank in the hallway, but satisfied to wander off and do his own thing without a backwards glance.

Reid peered in from the neighboring room slightly petulant, “When are you coming to my room?” She took my hand to lead me to the circle rug. “You sit here, Mama.” When I snuck away to set up the craft at the tables, she wanted to help with it all, restacking my sheets of paper, dipping the vegetables in the fresh paint. When I sent her back to her quiet time she marched away miffed and then lay on the rug tittering and laughing secret laughter with her best friend behind cupped secret-whispering hands. On the playground she called, “Look at me, look at me, look at meeee!” As she flew across the monkey bars.

Headed to the monkey bars.  October 2014

Headed to the monkey bars.
October 2014

At lunch I sat between the twins and marveled at their food choices, their conversations, the masterful way they each tried to capture my attention. Their first grade brother came over for a quick hug, letting me smell his hair for a second before he ran off with a friend.

Later, both classes convened for Popsicles and the singing of happy birthday.

This is six years old.  October 2014

This is six years old.
October 2014

Yes, they are six years old, and this is what six looks like.

What seasons are their lives now? Spring? Summer?

As I paddled, I inhaled the tinny scent of fall on the ocean, reflecting on their birthdays, their likenesses and differences and how they’ve both changed.

And I came to the realization that life is maybe more of a never-ending series of seasons, cycling and circling, and I am nearing the end of this portion of mothering them only to begin a new season. And they are ending a very specific season of needing me to begin a new need.

It is all beginnings and endings, beginnings and endings, with cake or Popsicles and walks on the ocean interspersed throughout.

Beginnings and endings, with cake or Popsicles... October 2014

Beginnings and endings, with cake or Popsicles…
October 2014

As I pulled into the cove I realized that the wind had been at my back all along, and that I probably should buy a new wetsuit because it’s not 1991 anymore on any level. I looked up to find that one of my sons was running down the lawn, across the road through the field to the water’s edge.

“You made my morning,” I said. “I’m so glad you came.”

“I thought you might need me,” he replied.

I handed him my paddle, and together we hopped gingerly across the icy cold stones that bit our bare feet, and we headed home.

10 comments on “The Twins Turn Six (from the Basement Tapes)

  1. Burns the Fire
    December 21, 2014

    Reading your posts brings me closer than I have ever felt, to what, I imagine, it feels like to be a mother. Beautiful!

    • jgroeber
      December 21, 2014

      One of the loveliest comments ever. And you write some lovely comments. Thank you, my dear!

  2. donofalltrades
    December 22, 2014

    You know what’s weird? I swear I was recently thinking about what season I’d put my life in right now. Great minds, I guess. My baby is three. When we get him into kindergarten, I think we’ll have reached a change in the seasons so to speak. No more day care bills and another year closer to being empty nesters. I’m not in a hurry to get there, but I’m sort of excited to get there at the same time, if that makes any sense.

    Lovely post, as always. I hope your family has a fabulous holiday.

    • jgroeber
      December 24, 2014

      So good to see you here. Thank you for the kind words. And yes, I think “everyone in school” is a season’s change. How is it they grow older in leaps and bounds, and we just slowly creep towards decrepitude?
      Happy creeping towards decrepitude New Year! Here’s to enjoying these believing years while they last!

  3. Eli Pacheco
    December 23, 2014

    Thing is, I have stuff from 1991 – but probably don’t fit in any of it!

    I love how you see things, Jen. Many parents, no offense to them, pine for days they’re going to move from. You see the cycles as they overlap and change. It’s constant change, and it’s not one day this, and the next day, that.

    It’s a beautiful, multi-leveled transformation for not only our kids, but for us as parents.

    • jgroeber
      January 2, 2015

      What a lovely comment. Thank you for your kind words.
      A beautiful Erma Bombeck piece always stays in my mind. A young overwhelmed Mom wrote in asking how she could get through these days of our children undoing what we do. Bombeck wrote back describing how one day that Mom would straighten clothing, sweep floors, and make beds only to find it all staying as clean as she’d left it, because her kids would be gone. It just chokes me up. So even as I holler, “Why do you all keep undoing what I do?!!” I always try to remember that.
      Have a wonderful new year and thank you for stopping by!

  4. Jenn Berney
    December 31, 2014

    I’m so glad you resurrected this post. ❤ Every day I dream about the "crossing over" you describe. And it's good to note on this New Year's Eve that it really all is just beginnings and endings.

    • jgroeber
      January 2, 2015

      I think of you so often. “How does she make the time to write?!” is usually the gist.
      And yes, life is totally cycles. Which helps me recognize and accept when some new time benchmark is reached (last breastfeeding, last diapers, last bottles, last high chairs and so on.) Because some new thing is always right around the corner. New beginnings. Cheers to a happy new year for you and yours!

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