4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Long time no write. Actually, it’s not that I haven’t written in a long time, and certainly it’s not that I haven’t thought the thoughts, it’s just that they’re all so hard to gather together. And it’s not that they’re hard to gather together because they are especially sad, although sometimes they are, funerals and grand disappointments and so on, but really, it’s just… so much.
Today I took my children on a run even though it was 90° and there was an obscene amount of humidity. They rode their bikes, one on a scooter, shooting on ahead of me. That Mumford & Sons song came on my one earphone tucked in my ear, I Will Wait For You.
And I thought about how I used to always have to wait for them during these runs. At first pushing them in strollers or on those little scooter bikes with the big handle in back, eventually pushing them up the great big hill, my hands on their lower backs, one on each side as I huffed up the great hill, them on their small wheeled bicycles with or without the training wheels. And now finally they are so big and ride so fast that they have to work to stay back near me, barely keeping me in earshot as I yell warnings about cars. Only my youngest stays by my side.
It has been a big few months. No bigger than normal. But normal time here flies when you have four children and two aging parents constantly marking the passing of time.
I’ve been making art. In fact a friend said that my daughter described my husband as someone who works very hard at work each day and sometimes in the summer when he gets a chance he can be a painter, and her mommy is a stay-at-home mom who is an artist. Just like that, something it’s taken me decades to say about myself my daughter says with ease. Her mother is an artist.
I brought them to the art show this summer where my piece, Waiting, won best in show for printmaking. Because I want them to see that you can be a stay-at-home mom and also be someone with aspirations and hopes, skills and gifts. Just last week I hung a new show, along with an amazing group of women who inspire me to keep making art all the time. And I look forward to a solo show in the fall at a local library, a show with my Newburyport gallery, and yet another show with that inspirational group of women. So yes, art.
And also, words. I have been writing words. Or at least editing words. One of those inspirational artist women I art with is also working on a book. So I’m telling you, the world, that we both promise to finish our books by December 31. Yup, 2018. Hold me (us!) to it. I need people to hold me to it.
Because there are children with things happening. And sometimes I am exhausted by my responsibilities and all this. Sitting down this morning with them all and having a long discussion about kindness and meanness and how we can be better. One of my children has been working with the Zones (of Regulation), which means you assign your emotions (without judgement!) a color.
I pointed out that we all need to work on our zones. When mom is in the blue zone, tired or bummed out, and then someone comes in to me in the yellow zone, frustrated or excited, what comes out is not green (although every art teacher will tell you so.) Green is a happy place. But in the addition of zones, what comes out is invariably red. And red goes without explaining. It’s RED. (Not that we assign negative value to any zone but c’mon. Red.)
So we’re all set up working on our zones. But the trick is, these zones are not my zones the way they used to be. Nothing about anything is solely mine like it used to be. Surely, not with my children. Because they’ve mostly become their own children. And I watch them do things that warm my heart in a way that only a child who once grew in your belly or cried in your arms every day can let your heart be warmed. I watched my daughters play field hockey this summer. I watched my boys and girls run 3 miles. Can you stand it? My youngest turned eight this summer. And she still wants to have a sushi party. Sushi. Can you stand it?
But they are long-legged and long-haired. They have ideas. And opinions. They have things that they are beginning to understand, things they are weak at. It breaks my heart. (Breaks my heart.) But they also have things that they understand that they are good at. And it makes my heart soar. Also, they try to kill each other all day long. All. Day. Long.
So maybe that would make around twenty blog posts. But who has the time? What with all the hurting and zoning and running.
And because it’s summer there is still the ocean. There is always the ocean, the place where time slips by in a layer of sunscreen and sunsets and the slow imperceptible but always significant rising of the tide.
I find myself when given the opportunity diving out into the water and swimming as far as I can, out of the cove around the farthest buoys and then back in again. Last week my oldest son joined me. He swam all the way out where the waves were bigger, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there were actually sharks in this water but I didn’t say anything. (Are there sharks in Maine water in summer?) And then we swam in together.
Before we had returned to where we could stand, I said, I need to float. And he said he didn’t like to float, but he still floated with me anyway. So we both floated on our backs, and we held hands. In that moment with the sun sparkling about us and the clouds scuttling across the sky and the voices of children on the beach, I couldn’t help but picture us as seen from above, two white starfish bodies spread out across the water floating, but barely, spinning slowly, hearts pumping, skin tingling, hands held. Adrift but secured, pulsing with cold but in the warmth of the sun, with no sense of time or place, but a visceral knowledge of where we are right now.
That has been our summer. That is what my life has become. An altered version of what it used to be, both more and less within my control. Both easier and harder. But always, some sort of crazy, ugly beautiful.
And those are the words I have for today. Those are the words.