4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I went for a run today.
Just a week ago on my run there was still snow on the ground deep in the woods, tucked in the valleys, with a gray fog rolling through the trees like ghosts.
Today it was gone. The fields were carpeted with new green grass and my four-year-old daughter pointed out the skunk cabbage unfurling in the furrows.
Before our run, Cabot rode her bike in the driveway, wearing a beat-up princess helmet, training wheels removed from her older brothers’ old bike. I wanted to teach her how to ride a two-wheeler. But there was no teaching to be done. I held my hand at her back, along the ridges of her spine, and she pulled away from me, gliding and swooping across the pavement unassisted. I ran to gather my camera, jogging a few feet behind, trying to capture this sudden unexpected flight.
It has been a week like that. My other three children had their piano recital on Tuesday. For the six-year-old twins it was their first, after less than a year of piano lessons. I sat in the audience almost sick to my stomach and giddy with nerves.
Will she trip as she climbs up to the stage like her best friend just did? Will he forget his name or the name of his recital piece (Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, by the way) as he did in his stage rehearsal last week? A part of me was shocked to feel the pull of them away from us in the audience, away from me, as they marched up the steps to the stage. How would they hold all this together on their own?
But they didn’t forget anything. After our snowed-in winter with more than ample time to practice sitting next to me at the keyboard, sometimes happily, sometimes begrudgingly, they played their recital pieces nearly flawlessly, smiling maniacally, positively leaping off the piano bench in victory.
I turned to the parent next to me, a bewildered dad playing Words With Friends on his iPhone, and said, “I could watch this for hours.” The tension as they ascend to the stage, the possibility for greatness or failure or emotional meltdown, these kids not quite fully formed marching bravely to the fore, lifting themselves onto piles of mats on the piano bench, legs dangling below; it was the sweetest thing, the most nerve-racking sweetest thing.
Jasper’s old kindergarten teacher said Jasper’s Hallelujah gave him the goosebumps and another teacher said she almost cried. Who can help but feel utterly emotional when these raw little five, six and seven-year-olds bravely walk before us in their finery, taking such a very big risk, buoyed only by our fervent hopes and dreams for them?
Today in the post office parking lot a lovely gray-haired woman leaned in the door of my very dirty minivan to watch my four-year-old clamber up into her car seat and fasten her seatbelt. The woman said how cute Cabot was, and then said that she had had seven.
Seven children, can you imagine? The woman said she had 18 grandchildren. And then she said she couldn’t remember how many great-grandchildren she had, but she knew it was more than 18.
Then she admonished me not to fret over the fingerprints on the walls, not to mind the dirty minivan, because these days will fly by all too fast. She turned then, and with the help of only a cane, she nimbly marched into the post office.
I never need reminding that these days will pass all too fast.
I always need reminding that these days will pass all too fast.
Just now, tonight, after flossing and brushing, but before rinsing, my six-year-old Mica leaned into the sink, spit, and then yelled, “My tooth!” as it spun towards the drain amidst their toothpaste splatter and bubble gum mouthwash. My husband fished it out, and right this minute, it lays under his pillow, awaiting the likely arrival of the tooth fairy and a shiny silver dollar.
How has this all happened? I am flabbergasted.
After Cabot’s victorious tour of the driveway on her two-wheeler today, I strapped her into the jog stroller gave her her sippy cup and apple slices and we went for that run in the woods.
Her feet hung over the sides of the jog stroller. She dangled her fingers dangerously close to the spokes of the wheels as I huffed and puffed, struggling with the weight of her. She has suddenly grown massive, heavy in all that she has accomplished, remarkable in all the things that she can do without my help.
Gone are the days of bundling them in quilts in the double stroller so that they’d nestle in and nap away throughout the run, curled up so small I could be pushing a bundle of blankets, a doll, or a dream. No. There is no mistaking that she is a full-blown person now, full of opinions and smiles and gestures, offered up to passing dog walkers and joggers along the trail.
Soon she will be riding next to me as I run. Imagine that.
When we reached the end of the running path, Cabot wanted to go through the gate to the other side.
I said that there will be time for that another day, for now this is enough. Enough.
And then we turned around and ran home.