jen groeber: mama art

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

Birthdays & Wrinkles, Forever


May 2017

Today a friend on the beach said what I’ve been thinking more and more these days.

“You used to be the mom on the beach with the four little kids,” she said. “Now you’re the mom with the three little kids and the one big kid.”

And she’s right. And it’s not so much that my oldest is big for his age. He’s not. He’s big for his grade, sure, but old for it too. And among his similarly old-for-their-grade best buds, he’s on the average side. It’s just that he suddenly feels much older.

It’s been happening all year, this year of nine-ness. He picks me less, his father more. He can be moody, truculent, mean to annoying siblings, frustrated at unjust things, impatient. Also he’s been the most responsible, the self starter, the hard worker, the kid who brings the recycling to the curb every Wednesday without me asking, who puts his clean clothes away, showers himself, checks in with me when I’m sad, the good friend, and occasionally the upstander.

And although he still waits for me to come read extra just to him, we both know these days it’s possible he’ll choose a Celtics playoff game over The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (although he’ll wisely wheedle both if given the option.) He’s all fart jokes and shady humor and knowing big things that make him feel old. Occasionally, he’s smug about all this maturity.

But this week since turning 10, he’s shifted. There’s been some hugs, some full body, real deal, delicious, holding tight hugs. (I’d do anything for those hugs.) And tonight after an infinite beach day that left me wiped, he came and lay down with me on the Yogibo rather than watch an animated movie with his siblings.

And just now, at bedtime, he lay facing me as we cuddled. “What song?” I asked.

“Not talking about a year,” he said.

And unlike Thunder Road, my usual go to, this one is truly his Forever song, the lullaby from Ben Harper I’d sing him as I walked him back to his crib in the stillness of the night after breastfeeding in the darkness.

“Not talking ’bout a year, no not three or four,

I don’t want that kind of forever in my life anymore.

Forever always seems to be around when it begins,

but forever never seems to be around when it ends.

Give me your forever. Please, your forever.

Not a day less will do, from you.”

After singing we lay face to face and even in the dark I could see the mocha freckles newly formed on his ghost pale nose. I ran my finger down its sturdy length.
He reached out and rubbed his finger within the deep furrows that run from my nose to my mouth.

“You have dimples,” he said.

“Oh bud, those are wrinkles. Do you see lots of wrinkles on mama’s face?”

He rubbed his finger across the deep lines etched along my brow, squinting in the sun lines from peering out across the bay at my son in the distant kayak, worrying over whether he brought all his lacrosse equipment furrows, these-kids-give-me-a-bad-attitude wrinkles.

“Just smile lines,” he said stroking my brow.

We lay in the darkness watching each other, breathing each other’s breath.
Which of us will age next? How will this 10th year change him? Change me?
It always seems we’ve done all the aging we can, grown up too much already. But in the moment I look away in my mind’s eye to the memory of a newborn nestled in my arms, my nearly unwrinkled brow framing the look of surprise in my eyes at this brand new human, this unbearable love, in that minute (hour day month) lost in reflection, he will change in ways both shocking and imperceptible. I will too.

mother and newborn

Minutes old
May 2007

But in the darkness now, cuddled face to face, him nearly a young man, me an aging mom, stroking freckles, tracing wrinkles, we are here. Ten year old him, forty-seven year old me, forgiving each other the changes, we are holding onto right now just the same with tender love and adoration still.

Happy birthday, my ten-year-old heart.


May 2017

“People spend so much time, every single day,

running around all over town giving their forever away.

No not me I won’t let my forever roam,

now that I found my forever a home.

Give me your forever. Please, your forever.

Not a day less will do…”


5 comments on “Birthdays & Wrinkles, Forever

  1. lafriday
    May 29, 2017

    Oh, Lord, Jen. As if I don’t have enough breaking my heart these days. My Kate was home for a couple of weeks celebrating my aging wrinkles and Mother’s Day. She is approaching 27 this summer, but still crawled into my bed one morning to cuddle her nearly six-foot tall frame next to me, her fingers rubbing my elbow as she did when she was a toddler. I suspect your young man is yours forever. ❤

  2. Burns the Fire
    May 30, 2017

    Your heart, his heart and mine… we all come together in your beautiful blog. xoxo

  3. Ann St. Vincent
    May 30, 2017

    I absolutely love your writing. Mine just turned 9 and we have some absolutely amazing moments as well. I’ve enjoyed every age but watching him grow and become a fully formed human has been amazing. His sense of humor delights me (when it’s not fart jokes!) as does his occasional very insightful commentary on life.

  4. Kelly L McKenzie
    May 30, 2017

    “Just smile lines.” Bless him. I suspect he’ll treasure his special time with you forever, even though they might not happen as often. My little guy is now a 6 foot 21 year-old and when he’s home he still makes an effort to at least once squeeze beside me into the “reading chair.”

  5. UpChuckingwords
    June 8, 2017

    so perfect.

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