4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
My baby is turning six.
I know I always say this. My baby is turning four. My baby is turning five. But this time I mean it.
My baby is turning six, and I’m not prepared. Every night at bedtime after I floss her teeth she stands in front of me, her face higher and higher over me as I sit on the floor flossing her brothers’ and sister’s teeth, and she holds the baby tooth on the bottom row of her mouth, and she wiggles it. I do not want her to lose her first tooth, and she knows this. I am not ready for it, but she is.
Her birthday has always been lost in the midst of changes and relative mayhem. In fact, her birthday was technically supposed to happen last week. But we didn’t have time for a C-section last week six years ago. So we postponed her birth until this week. It is perhaps interesting to note that I went into labor on the day of her re-scheduled C-section two hours before I was to report for surgery. Even birth she did on her own, even when we weren’t ready for her. The year my brother died on the eve of her 3rd birthday, we skipped her birthday altogether.
And so in the middle of graduation events galore, my husband’s birthday last week, her brother’s birthday two weeks ago, Father’s Day this weekend, teacher gifts and last days of school, she turned six. And we hardly even noticed.
It is especially easy to misplace her birthday on days that are tinged with darkness like these, days when the things you hear on the radio are so very sad and so difficult to explain to your children.
“How could a man maybe be gay but then kill all these people who are maybe gay because they’re gay?” one asked.
And it is hard to bake a cake at 11:42 at night after all my children are snuggled safely in their beds buried under a pile of stuffed animals, and listen to the voices of grieving mothers talk about their sons and daughters who went out to dance with their friends in a place they felt safe and who were slaughtered. It is horrible to listen to the grieving fathers riding a sea of grief as they lose their babies to the ocean and flimsy boats fleeing Syria, or the media mourning the twenty children left to die in a desert in Niger by people smugglers. People smugglers.
There is starvation and hatred and politicians spitting poison. There are semi-automatic weapons, for what purpose I can’t even begin to imagine. There are even people smugglers and intentionally flimsy boats. There is grief and loss.
And then there is my daughter asleep under the Hello Kitty blanket I sewed her last year for her 5th birthday. When I curled in bed next to her tonight and asked what she’d miss most about being five, she said that it was “the youngishness”. And when I prodded, she said that she knew that now that she was six we would do less special things for her, we would expect more, more responsibility, less treats, you know? Which was perhaps a tiny bit true and a tiny bit sad, but really quite lovely, too. Like the gentle wiggling of an ever-looser tooth. She is growing up, but maybe, thankfully, only growing upishness.
But this is the wonder of having children. And perhaps especially the wonder of this child.
It is in the darkest moments, that they bring us comfort.
She is a dancer and a lacrosse player (in fact she shamelessly played lacrosse in her dance tutu and lacrosse goggles this spring because her mother was always too busy to change her.) She reads aloud, played Can You Feel the Love Tonight for her piano recital, and rides bikes. And she colors all the time in those meditative coloring books with all the tiny shapes. She broke her arm but convinced us for three days that it wasn’t really hurt, until the school nurse told me that she should go to the doctor because really, her arm was probably broken. She loves soft things and lip gloss and her friends. And if you are mean to her, her lip will quiver, but generally she will move on. And if you are sad, she will rub up against you like a cat, or rest her hand on your leg like a labrador. (How she would love a cat or a labrador.)
But most of all, she will try to bring you joy, whether with a deep belly laugh or a pirouette or an unexpected compliment. Whether you are different from her or not, she would like to know you, heal you, show you something beautiful, see something beautiful in you. And I know people can say this about most kids, maybe all kids, but I swear this is her singular gift.
Nuzzling her neck, feeling the weight of her soft hand, listening to her whispered words in the dark, these things are healing.
So, yes. My baby turned six today. We almost overlooked the big event altogether. But we could never have overlooked her. She is the light.