4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Last week my email account resent a bunch of emails with photo attachments, emails I’d sent a year ago. And my sister replied to a very back-to-school looking picture as if it was from this year. Because in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t changed all that much. Their legs are slightly longer, faces barely thinner, more freckles, less teeth. Otherwise, not so different.
I was thinking about this as I took my last Sunday-morning paddle at sunrise the weekend before Labor Day. This has been a summer with not much to reflect on.
We played Monopoly and went for kayak adventures. We bicycled in the park, all four kids racing off on two wheels. We had play dates with friends near and far, and I stood amazed to realize that some of my friends’ kids are now almost taller than me. We learned a new card game called Egyptian Rat Screw (thanks for that name, teenage nieces of mine) and just last week my eight-year-old son beat me at it, fair and square.
This was the summer in fact, of him being very eight years old in every way, of my six-year-old daughter and son saying they hate me and that I’m stupid, respectively (although not respectfully, apparently.) My six-year-old daughter perfected the art of the single foot stomp, while her twin brother mastered the wise-guy one-liner with the smirk. It is the summer that my baby turned five, and the passage of time confronted me like a runaway train, or the gentle ebb of the tide.
It is the summer I decided to write things for the world to see, where I resolved to collect rejections. And I got some. Also a few acceptances, thankfully.
I worked out a bit, but not that much, and my momkini didn’t even care. Nor did I. We ate s’mores and homemade granola, lobster and prosciutto, and more fish and greens than any family should.We picked things at our local organic farm and ate it in the shade of the trees by the field. I even grew mint in a pot by the garage so that my husband could make me the most delectably fresh mojitos ever invented.
We read Peter Pan and The Secret Garden, The Magician’s Elephant and Harry Potter and all four gorgeous Penderwick books. We watched Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep, and regrettably, The Minions. I may have even made eye contact with the Edge when U2 came to town.
This is the summer the island mermaids asked me to swim with them amidst the late night phosphorescence in the cove, and I did. This may even have been the summer that four grown ups raced down the plank walk through the beach grass to dive naked into the August full moon high tide at nearly midnight, but that’s a secret between the moon and the child that lives in each of us.
I can’t help but wonder which of these things will seem specific to this and only this summer in retrospect. What will I look back on and think, Oh, yes, that. We used to be like that. What part of the summer will I miss most five, ten, twenty-five years from now?
As I paddled this morning I watched the clouds like puffy bars, lined in rows across the sky, fighting to keep the rising sun at bay. I thought about how time is usually marked by bad things- the year my dad got sick, the year he died, the year of one or another of my brother’s surgeries, or when my older siblings left me to head off to college, the year some girlfriends were horrible, or the summer he broke my heart, the summer my brother died. Except for a few jobs and the wonder of college, most years before meeting my husband are marked like that.
But as I glided the last ten yards into the shallows, leaning on my paddle, balanced silently beneath that protective cloud layer, I thought about how this summer was a small, quiet, forgettable thing. It was simply, gloriously, healthfully, joyously, mundanely enough.
I want my children to know that.
You had enough. We had enough. And it was extraordinary.