jen groeber: mama art

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

Two-Wheelers, Piano Recitals and Lost Teeth

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.

Cabot riding away from me on a two-wheel bike

Riding a two-wheeler
April 2015

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?

three children, the boys wearing jackets and ties, lined up side by side

Morning of the recital
April 2015

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?

boys arm in arm in front of the marshes, still in their bowties, ice cream in hand

The boys eating ice cream, post-recital
April 2015

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.

gap-toothed boy holding a baby tooth and smiling

Another tooth
April 2015

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.

cabot in a stroller, my hand on the bar pushing, her arms raised to reach the metal gate before turning home

April 2015

13 comments on “Two-Wheelers, Piano Recitals and Lost Teeth

  1. kellylmckenzie
    April 30, 2015

    Oh the joy of watching them take that first successful push of the pedal and then another and another and … they are still upright! Absolutely magical. And it’s the best of the best when it’s unexpected.
    If you haven’t done it yet – go now and check to see if the tooth fairy came. I sure hope she did!

    • jgroeber
      May 1, 2015

      Last night when I read your comment before bed (at midnight!) it reminded me that the tooth fairy was in fact coming. Which I’d forgotten!! Zoiks! Luckily she showed up, and apparently, my six-year-old had left her a piece of artwork with a note as well. So she left him a little drawing of a tooth with wings covered with glitter. If I can be honest here, it looks like she may have been drunk when she made it. Jes’ sayin’. 😉
      Thank you, on so many levels!!

  2. Amy Reese
    May 1, 2015

    Oh, just look at how handsome your boys are! They are so brave to play the piano in front of an audience. You capture such a wonderful little morsel in your post. I just ate that up! And I know, the time flies. I have a few posts about my kids losing teeth. It feels just like yesterday. 🙂 Another wonderful post, Jen. They’re like works of art. Thank you. P.S. My son just started playing the piano. I hope he sticks with it!

    • jgroeber
      May 1, 2015

      Thank you so much for dropping by. And for getting it. It feels redundant in some ways, another tooth, another toth, another tooth… I mean, how many teeth can I write about?! But then it’s over!! No more teeth.
      And may I recommend for the budding pianist, we made a practice chart that they put a sticker on for every fifteen minutes (they’re only 7, 6 and 6) and then when the (huge) chart is covered, they get a small gift they’ve wanted. A $15 Lego set or Thinking Putty. It takes about 6 months, but they’re into it! Also, they get to chew a piece of gum, which works with the one who gets distracted easily. They never get gum otherwise. And I’ve totally tried to help him play the music he wants to play. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah? Zoiks! But it worked…

      • Amy Reese
        May 1, 2015

        My kids need to practice a little bit more. I haven’t tried any kind of chart. Maybe that would help. Teeth do stop….and then that’s over. Next comes puberty! It comes up fast… 🙂

  3. Burns the Fire
    May 1, 2015

    Your blog is a treasure for your kids and the kids in us. Thank you!!

    • jgroeber
      May 6, 2015

      Ah, your comments are the treasure. Truly. I so love seeing your little yarn-covered picture here. Thank YOU!

  4. T Stickney
    May 2, 2015

    Jen- these are days… to remember… that song came on the other day on my way away from Boden to go swim. I burst into tears thinking that I no longer had to rush back to nurse. Funny how those things just get us. Last night watching my two oldest play real ball little league (wtih kids hitting into the outfield) I thought, where are my three little ones… there is not more physical chasing around, which makes me so sad, but the conversations we have now are so amazing and takes parenting to such a new level. How can they be getting so big… when we are not growing older at all?? Then I realize that I have to put on glasses to write this, and perhaps we are all growing older too. I heard on NPR when mine were all under 5, “these are the longest, shortest days.” It has stuck with me.
    Thank you for putting this all into words…

    • jgroeber
      May 6, 2015

      Oh, how I love this comment. You totally made my day! Thank you for reading and for getting it. And sadly, for getting older with me. Sigh.
      We adore those three quickly-growing kiddos of yours. Here’s to each new amazing chapter of their lives. That these days are so long and these years are so short has been at the very crux of all I write about here. Let’s call it the Parenting Paradox. We are living the Parenting Paradox.

  5. Leslie Newlin
    May 5, 2015

    I always love reading your posts! Such a delight to get a peek into a charming and real family.

    • jgroeber
      May 6, 2015

      So good to see you here again! And thank you for reading and commenting.
      I’m not sure we’re always the most charming bunch, but we certainly are really real, for better or worse. Welcome back!

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2015 by in Memory, The Children and tagged , , , , , , .

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