4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
We went to the ocean this weekend.
I was resistant. “But we’ll miss three lacrosse games and two birthday parties and a lacrosse practice and an invitation to go to the movies with friends,” I said in that way that only a truly spoiled First World Mom could say.
“Oh my goodness. Then it’s the perfect weekend to get away!” exclaimed one of my wiser walking friends. I had to ponder that. “But we’ll miss so much…” I finished lamely.
And yet we went to the ocean anyway.
And a little bit everyone was bummed to be missing the big events. Even my husband was in doubt enough to attempt a family vote midweek to ascertain interest and perhaps facilitate buy-in.
“We’ll miss the party at the roller rink?”
“But we’ll stop for pizza on the way out of town! And maybe gelato, too,” he cheered.
“Wait. I’m missing my best friend’s gymnastics party?!”
“Yes. You are,” I agreed.
“How about we stop at Whole Foods?” replied my son, bargaining.
“What about Whole Foods?” echoed my husband.
“We’ll stop at Whole Foods and get whatever we want?” my son pressed.
The weekend rode on that fine of a hair. Whole Foods or no?
But we went to the ocean anyway (and we didn’t even stop at Whole Foods.) While we would have been partying with friends in our smooth roller skates we were instead walking through the woods along the cliff trail, building fairy houses and gasping at the view of the churning ocean down below.
As I would have been checking on my mini-viral Scary Mommy blog post, instead I was turning over stones to look for small eels and crabs to hold in our hands and then toss back to the ocean. And during the time we would have been playing lacrosse games I snuck out to paddle board, my board smacking against early spring waves unready to be ridden. Well aware that the lobstermen would forever be talking about the crazy woman out on the water, I put on my wetsuit and water booties to ameliorate everyone’s concerns.
I laughed to myself as I headed out into the cove. This was my first time out in the new wetsuit, an L.L.Bean shortie, a children’s size XL. It entertained me that in Maine sizes, an XL child is the same as a middle-aged mother of four.
As I dug into the water getting my bearings my mind began to slow just a hint from my frenetic land-locked jumble of spinning thoughts. I contemplated the implications of those words, middle age. At 45 I’m now pretty officially middle aged. And the kids are no longer toddlers, despite the occasional size 5T I find in the bottom of their musty pajama drawer left from last summer, smelling of salt air and, inexplicably, sunscreen.
I thought about how these days of drawn out hikes along rocky beaches and feral lunches guided by our own internal schedule seem to be slipping away, shoved carelessly to the side by our youth lacrosse league, piano lessons, homework, school commitments or the five birthday parties we get invited to every weekend. We are heading into the thick of it, where there’s just so very much that we can’t bear to miss that we will instead miss all this.
The girls’ and boys’ lacrosse games were won without Coach Jen and her three U9 lacrosse players on the field, although I’m not sure if the boys lacrosse coach will hold the two missed games against them. I’m sure there will be fallout back at school after the kids realize there might be some party favor bags or group memories they missed out on collecting. Also, I saw a picture on Facebook of a cluster of seven-year-old girls filling a minivan on their way to Zootopia. How in the world could our family night out for Indian food and The Jungle Book compete with five mewling seven-year-old girls resplendent in BFF necklaces and hair accessories?
It is clear that I am middle aged (despite the children’s XL) and they no longer toddle. Yet this weekend there was this: our children walking to the end of the island to buy a small wooden lobster boat, a lacrosse ball tossed around in the field with mom, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean in a room filled with bunk beds amidst the raspy breathing of your siblings and the musty smell of almost-summer.
There was the metallic crystalline bite of the chilled saltwater air moving like centuries-old ghosts around me as I walked on water this weekend, and how those chilly ghosts pressed away the incessant fog of too much, too many, right now. And then my wee birds were left with the breathless flight of the swing, unhinging their bellies from their throbbing bodies in a rise and fall, until we were all returned to earth, grounded on ever-shifting stones alongside the pull and surge of the ocean, at once eternal and fleeting. For this single weekend we nearly were timeless, ageless, permanent in our adherence to the ever-changing cycle of tides and the mysterious thrumming heartbeat of family.
I need the sea because it teaches me,
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
~Pablo Neruda, excerpt from On the Blue Shore of Silence