4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
We got stuck behind the train crossing on the way to school this morning. Of course it happened, because it is the first day back to school for the kids after Christmas break. Truly, to me, it feels like the first day of the new year even though it is January 2nd.
Rabbit, rabbit. This is what you say to get your wish on the first day of a new month, and especially on the first day of a new year. But you have to remember to say it first before you say anything else or it won’t work.
It is what I said yesterday morning first thing, when my husband turned to me in bed and said, “I love you.” I replied, “Rabbit rabbit. Happy New Year. I love you, too.” I’d been laying there thinking about it for a few minutes.
Of course we got stuck behind a train crossing this morning because we had to get all the recycling out to the curb. And we weren’t used to waking up when it’s still dark, at first with my husband and I stretching in the darkness of our living room together on our side by side yoga mats. Him groaning with the back that has been torturing him all break, and me just trying to maintain whatever fitness I have left to me at this advanced age.
Then we woke the kids up in the dark, stumbling and sleepy. They put on their layers clumsily, out of practice from not seeing Mama before 8:30 in the morning for two weeks. At 6:45 we stumbled downstairs, and I reheated the leftover pancakes from yesterday.
I had to remind them of every small thing. Eat your breakfast. Put your dish in the dishwasher. No, rinse it first. Brush your teeth. No, you need to let me braid your hair. Hold still. Hold still. Put your socks on. Your shoes. Your coat. Your boots. Move, move, move.
Did you pack your sneakers? Your snow pants? Your gloves? Your ice skates? Your piano music?
In the minivan the twins in the backseat threw elbows, shoved, and slapped each other like siblings from a National Lampoon movie because the seatbelt all the way on the far side is folded and stuck and so their boosters are almost on top of each other smashed together in the back row, arms twisting together like they must have been once in my belly, but now they jostle for the clasp to their respective seat belts, sandwiched between their car seats.
It is -2° outside.
We wait at the train crossing.
I think that I should be thinking about New Year’s resolutions but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I feel about New Year’s resolutions this year the same way I feel about RSVPs always, which is to say that I will get to it later when I am certain I am willing to commit, or like how I feel about buying my mom tickets to fly up to visit me, which I hate doing because I know she will be happy about them in the moment but then will complain to me about her seat or the airline or the time right up to the actual flight, then during the actual flight to whoever sitting next to her, and then after the actual flight she will relive every miserable moment of said flight down to the poundage of the man sitting next to her. I hate them both, RSVPs and tickets, not my mom of course. Putting it off and regretful, that is how I feel about New Year’s resolutions.
I should make a list of things I’m grateful for*. This I can do. I’m grateful for so many things like the twins fighting in the backseat. Can you imagine they were born two months early, how terrifying that was? And there they are like MMA fighters trying to put each other in a sleeper hold, throwing elbows to noses and just hoping to have the other person tap out.
And I’m so very grateful for my husband to groan on the floor next to me trying to cure a back that is not cooperating. I’m grateful for the living room to do it in with the full moon shining in one window somehow while the sun rises in another. I’m grateful for children sleeping upstairs. (I am always especially grateful when they are asleep.) I am grateful for the boy who is always responsible but who forgot to bring the bag to put his skates and helmet in and who will be almost in tears at the fact that we will arrive to school one minute late. One minute.
I am grateful for my sweet, spacey youngest who smiles like Luna Lovegood, somehow bringing everyone along on this rushed and sleepy morning even though she’s not actually doing all that much to help.
I am grateful for their school and the people to make it so, the woman yelling happy new year and waving happily to my car as I pull away, even though it is -2° outside and she’s been standing there for 20 minutes.
I’m grateful for the snow and the ocean even when the snow in the ocean happens on the same day we decided to do a polar plunge together last week, while my mother stayed home by the tree wrapping gifts and my younger brother who has not done anything physically challenging or athletic in 10 years at least waddled down the ice-covered beach and jumped in the freezing ocean anyway. I’m grateful in fact, for the whole familial bunch.
I am grateful for family and friends who love me even though I never RSVP or send thank you notes for that matter. I’m grateful for friends, who groan and laugh next to me as we run or walk or run errands, and for ones who groan or laugh in texts from afar even if we go months or years without groaning or laughing in person.
I’m even grateful for my amazing sister-in-law who generously sent my children Target gift cards for Christmas so that I spent 2 1/2 hours on the first day of the year at a Target while my children decided to buy mostly nothing except a buffalo plaid fleece robe with antlers, a shirt with a mermaid heart on it, and a Squishy, which is a horrible toy you squish in your hands and then let rise up again that smells like the most hurtful chemicals known to man. (And in full disclosure, I sent her kids Target gift cards first, alas.) And I’m grateful for my mom and sisters and brothers and in-laws, especially my mother-in-law and our Bunny who is a grandfatherly person and not an actual bunny, because I would not be grateful for an actual rabbit (rabbit) in my household, not one bit.
Yesterday I listened to an interview with Ian McEwan and Jane Clayson on NPR. They talked about the practice of writing, and what it takes. Showing up every day, he said. Even when you don’t feel like it and you have nothing to say. I should put that in a New Year’s resolution, showing up every day to write in the new year. Make art every day. But I am scared of failing myself, honestly, because if I think about it, I think that I often fail these sorts of specific wishes.
Later in the day, avoiding all New Year’s resolutions, I heard another show on NPR, this one talking about the habits of successful people, all the ways you can turn intentions into good behavior, including telling people you’re going to do something and holding yourself accountable, holding up a carrot for ourselves or punishing yourself.
I could do this in the New Year, I thought. What to choose? Should I try to be healthier? Eat less sugar? Drink a little less Prosecco, yell at my children less? Make more art?
Sometimes these resolutions feel like an embarrassingly human thing full of hubris and want, putting boundaries on living life, fencing the open plains so to speak. Do this to be great, do that. Be this. Finish that.
Maybe I’m letting myself off the hook, but what if my New Year’s resolution is a softer squishier thing (but unlike that chemical Squishy I detest.) Maybe my softer New Year’s resolution is just to be present, be kinder to the world around me and to myself, whatever or whoever happens to be in arm’s range. What if I just asked myself throughout the day, is this good for you? Is this good for the people around you? The environment? The world? And if it wasn’t I stopped or changed my behavior. What if we all just did that?
When I get home from dropping off the kids it’s 3° outside. Things are warming up.
I’ve decided we can say it at anytime and make our wish.
And then I can decide if this is good for me or not and you can decide, too. Whatever you are doing. Then you can wish for it to be better (rabbit, rabbit), and you can do better, or as better as you can manage, or at least not worse. That’s my New Year’s jam and it can be yours too, if you’d like. Show up, be present, be grateful whenever you can, wish for better in the world, be kinder to everyone and especially to those you love. And yourself. Keep it soft and squishy (not Squishy though, those things are disgusting.)
*Beautiful Dawn Landau at Tales From the Motherland inspired me this year to join a grateful bloghop (along with the amazing Jenny from Jenny’s Lark who started this list of thankful a few years ago.) It was a joyous sending of grateful vibes out into the blog-o-verse that was timed and fresh and lovely. Dawn asked me to join this year, but my kids had a snow day. As I type this minute, they all nag me for the soup or the TV or to play Sushi, Go (which I am also thankful for, I love that game.) So I have to say, this is my thankful contribution, although outside the strict parameters. But I recorded that whole entire post with my voice on my iphone in exactly 15 minutes which is my drive home after driving my kids to school on January 2nd. I only took three (maybe five, I don’t know) very interrupted minutes to make corrections, and I’ll take five more minutes for adding pictures. But seriously, 15 minutes and grateful. Rabbit, rabbit. It’s enough.