jen groeber: mama art

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

Twin Posts: Mirror in the Sky

I spent the morning at my daughter’s school celebrating her seventh birthday. We had planned for me to make crafts with her class, a collaged ocean seascape and some hot glue gun creatures out of seashells.

girl walking on play rug

Another journey around the sun
October 2015

The teacher has this amazing tradition to celebrate the kids’ birthdays. A parent or loved one comes into the classroom and the child holds an earth globe and then she walks around the sun with each month a step in her rotation, each full rotation a year in her life.


I was up late last night doing one million other things, and so I didn’t do a very good job finding photographs. There were lots of baby photos, one or two recent ones, and a big blank space in the middle. And I thought I had a minute to organize myself once I arrived to school to write down my ideas so I wouldn’t leave anything out, but when I arrived I realized I was first on the docket.

I began with my tale of their early birth, the time spent in the hospital, the NICU. She hopped off the couch and started showing her friends her photos. And then she started talking. She talked right over me. Every time I started to say something she interrupted. And she wasn’t even telling the story right.

girl with globe

Dramtic story teller
October 2015

And it’s a funny thing, our day went like that.

I sat between her and her brother for lunch. He had saved a spot for her so she could join us, even though the day before when I came to celebrate his birthday, she had been a total, aggravating interloper, dramatically running off crying when I wouldn’t let her interrupt his day. She sent a friend over to tell us she was sad. I told the friend she was choosing to be sad, but thanks.

kids on swings

Joining in on her brother’s birthday celebration
October 2015

While at lunch she made some inappropriate jokes about being sexy. She then started trying to make everyone laugh by hitting herself in such strange places that even the naughty boys at the table gave her a raised eyebrow.

She went to give her eight-year-old brother a hug, which he didn’t want, and so they bashed heads in the middle of the dining hall. They both burst into tears. He was so ashamed, and in that moment I felt more for him than for her.

I watch her playing soccer, and I sometimes have similarly conflicted feelings. She is so close to being just terrific, but then she’s tentative or loses focus completely. She wants to play goalie so she can be like me (I was actually a field hockey goalie, but whatever) and then she looks over to the sideline to wave to me and misses the ball.

In fact, she’s always a little too dramatic, a little too loud, clinging, almost pretentious in her emotions. Sometime she talks too much, telling personal things about herself to get a response. (Start a blog already- am I right?)

And so I grabbed the free hour after crafts and before the popsicles, and I threw on some running clothes and snuck away from school for a short run. I played a little game I call Birthday Gris-Gris with a Spotify mix I have that contains about 80 songs that mean something to who I am and how I am. I hit shuffle and let the random Spotify God find the mystical message of my day.

Landslide came on, a song I discovered in my 20s when I was a lot lost, but out there trying to figure my way out. It’s the Dixie Chicks version, rolling and lovely. Listening to the words I had a bit of a realization.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Maybe my problem both is and is not my daughter’s.

Which is to say, maybe my daughter is just an awful lot like me. And sometimes it’s the me I’m not so enamored with. As my daughter turns seven and tries to find her balance, the fine line between funny and inappropriate, being personal and being too intimate, being a good friend and being a crazy friend-stalker, maybe it’s even more unclear than I remember.

Maybe what I need to do is gift her with the things I wish people had said and done to and for me when I was being that same awkward child, teenager, adult.

It’s a hard thing to consider, being nice to ourselves in that way, let alone to a slightly changed mirror of ourselves. But if I allow myself, I can see that she is bold and brave. She is an excellent artist, a kooky story teller. Kids and teachers ding-dang love her. She wants to please other people, make them happy, be a good friend, help you laugh.

She wants to shine because she loves things that sparkle, and she talks so much because she’s honing her voice. When she is trying on different personas, she’s actually being her most authentic self. And while she may not find the perfect fit at the lunch room table or walking around her sun, perhaps I can help be there for her as she grows closer to her best self.

In the middle of being slightly peeved at her procession  around the sun, I suddenly found myself unable to say the months of the year. That chunk in the middle when I couldn’t find photos, it went too fast. I looked at the teacher, fanning my face, and with my chokey voice whispered, “I think I’m getting emotional.” He chuckled and nodded.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too

When she left me, she was running down the hallway with girlfriends, having shaken off the collision with her brother. The girls were holding hands, skipping and singing the Fight Song by Rachel Platten. They’d found their own gris-gris.

I turned and said to their retreating backs, “You go, girls! This is your fight song.”

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

girl with seashell sculpture

The artist
October 2015

Happy birthday, big girl!

(This is one of a two part twin celebration. Check out her twin’s birthday here.)

15 comments on “Twin Posts: Mirror in the Sky

  1. Pingback: Twin Posts: Transitioning to Seven | jen groeber: mama art

  2. Jennifer Berney
    October 10, 2015

    You describe so beautifully here what I think might be (for me, at least) the hardest part of parenting–how do we respond to our kids when they are reflecting the parts of ourselves we don’t like a whole lot? This is why I especially fear my kids’ adolescence. But then, this post makes me think I might make it out okay. Happy birthdays!

    • jgroeber
      October 13, 2015

      Maybe we can be better at this parenting thing because we’ve taken the time to reflect on what’s actually going on as it’s going on. Or maybe at least our kids can look back and know that we tried.
      As always, it is awesome of you to pop by and comment. And right in the midst of your own birthday moments, no less.

  3. Burns the Fire
    October 10, 2015

    Happy birthdays!! xoxo

    • jgroeber
      October 13, 2015

      Cake, cake, cake! xoxo
      (And thank you.)

  4. lafriday
    October 12, 2015

    Happy birthdays, indeed. The hardest part of our children growing up is the growing that is required of us. Riding past on their bikes, leaving us in the hallways, marching independently into adulthood (mine is across the country and doing SO well). We’re always left in the magic of their dust. Sigh.

    • jgroeber
      October 13, 2015

      What a gorgeous response to a post that could have come off as snarky. Thank you so much for getting it. Really.
      Knowing you’ve survived the cross country journey gives me hope I’ll figure out this growing up thing, for them and for me.
      Thank you.

      • lafriday
        October 13, 2015

        And I get to relive the magic of “small” through your sumptuous memoir (but there is magic in “tall” too). Thank you, Jen.

  5. Amy Reese
    October 12, 2015

    First of all, what a wonderful, thoughtful celebration the school puts on for their kids. I see that it requires a little something or a lot of something extra from the parents, but what a way to make them all feel special. It’s pretty cool to watch them grow even when it is frustrating and they don’t always make the best decisions. But, I guess that’s their life journey. Great post.

    • jgroeber
      October 13, 2015

      Thank you. And it’s only this one teacher who does the around-the-sun thing. although I do have to say, I love it. I tried to give them their own days with me at school (as I did with the posts this year.) They’ll share an enormous cake though, I think, and a huge bounce house birthday party, too. More of life’s journey. 😉

      • Amy Reese
        October 13, 2015

        This is a special teacher. I bet your daughter will remember this birthday, not to mention the enormous cake and huge bounce house. She’s doing it up right!

  6. Anna Spanos
    October 13, 2015

    I often have the same thoughts about my girl. She looks like me, she acts like me, and I get so worried that she’ll end up just like me – searching, conflicted, not finding herself until after getting into too much trouble for too many years. But like you, I try to just be the voice for her that I never had growing up. To love her always, all the time, in every beautiful and every awkward moment, to let her know it’s okay to feel sometimes like she doesn’t belong. What a lucky girl your daughter is, and thank you for sharing her (and your) story.

    • jgroeber
      October 13, 2015

      But what a wonder if she turned out like you… creative, strong, loving, aspirational, inspirational. The world needs more of those things.
      I wish I could do better being the loving voice rather than the snarking voice but even that one Landslide moment sort of moved me closer, I think. Way to go, Dixie Chicks. Ha!

  7. Jay
    October 14, 2015

    You know, this is a really beautiful post. I think sometimes parents are afraid to put voice to these thoughts, but I hear the love in every single word. They are so lucky to have you.

    • jgroeber
      November 21, 2015

      How am I just now seeing this lovely comment? Thank you for understanding that messy mix that is the deep and abiding love we feel for our children, mirrors of ourselves or otherwise. Even re-reading I begin to wonder how I can possibly judge so harshly, but then when I journey back to the heart of things, that place where my love for my daughter shines through, it gives me the chokey voice all over again. Parent love is like that.
      Thank you.

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This entry was posted on October 10, 2015 by in Surviving Motherhood, The Children and tagged , , , , , .

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