4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
It is their last week of school. And when I’m not feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a recent birthday just passed, or one looming ahead in two weeks, or Father’s Day, my husband’s birthday, or teacher gifts or the things I do to help my husband’s work at this time of year, I feel anxious inside. Like when I finally stand still for a moment, I gasp and put my hand to my chest. It feels like I’ve forgotten something important, like I’ve left someone behind.
Yesterday was field day, and after I returned home from dropping off my kids at school I looked in my minivan to find an army of full water bottles rolling around on the floor. So I sent an email to all the teachers of my children asking if any of my kids had forgotten their water bottle for field day. Surely, one of them needed me to run to school and give them what they had forgotten?
But throughout the day each teacher reported back that although they had assumed it would be their Groeber who had forgotten the water bottle, it was not. Instead everyone finished the day sweaty, but happy and happily well hydrated. No one had forgotten anything after all.
This morning at breakfast the kids were all singing the special songs that they will be singing to the eighth graders at their last celebration. They’ve taken the tunes of songs like Riptide and Seven Years Old, and changed them to sing about a school by a pond, classroom rabbits, days of growing older.
As they fumbled through their songs, all eager to show off what they’d learned these past weeks, jumping on one another’s forgotten words, my first grade son turned to me and said knowingly, “They’ll all be crying when we sing.” As if he found that so ridiculous.
“Bawling!” he added gleefully.
“I will be crying my eyes out when all those little children sing those songs to grown-up you,” I replied, “and you will probably cry too.”
“Not me,” he said.
And perhaps he’s right. He’s a smooth operator, that one. Cold-hearted (except when he’s cuddling.)
But I know I will cry.
I think I already feel a little bit like crying now.
They go to school today with half of them in new clothes because when I opened up their drawers at the first hot day two weeks ago, I realized that everything from the fall had holes from lively wear, or worse yet, they’d been outgrown.
Dresses had grown too short, and even the boys’ bellies were revealed when they raised their hands over their heads. Just yesterday, I took my sewing sheers to a pair of pants with holes in the knees and two pairs of leggings.
Those pants won’t fit in the fall anyway, even if I took the time to patch them. And so the top of my dryer is now a graveyard of fabric scraps cut from the hems of pants that couldn’t keep up. They were no longer enough to hold my children in. Apparently, nothing is.
I wonder what else will be discarded these weeks, which spelling book or handwriting manual or times table sheets will go immediately into the recycling bin? Which workbook, reading log or math mystery is no longer relevant? Which clay pig or papier-mâché turtle won’t make it home in one piece?
I can kid myself and say that they have hardly changed from the little kids they were 10 months ago on the first day of school. But as I count those months off on my fingers, September, October, November, December…
I realize that my kids are more closely aligned with the children they will be in two short months.
My kindergartner is more first grader, my first-graders more second grade, and my second-grader is practically a great big third-grader.
Thus we head into summer. And I will scramble to fit them into size 5T bathing suits. I will offer to help apply sunscreen and tie shoelaces, I will gladly put shampoo on hair as they stand in the outdoor shower after a sandy day at the beach. I will hold their hands as they leap off of giant rocks into the frigid ocean.
And then at the end of each rapidly flying day, I will read to them and smell their heads and sing softly to them as they fall asleep between sandy sheets in salt water air.
I will try to remember not to forget any of this, not to leave one little bit behind, no matter how hard they try to run ahead into the surf with long limbs flying, leaving their toddler selves in the corner next to the stretched out 5T rash guard or rolling on the floor of my minivan with the water bottles. Or under the scraps of outgrown pants discarded on my dryer.
For now I will work with all my might to treasure them just as they are for as long as possible.
Summer has begun.