4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I’ve had a bit of a weird jumbly year so far. Not especially bad, but not especially good either.
Just last week, one week into the new year, I lost a tooth. A few days later, Mica found a tooth.
Mine was rotten to the core, literally, and I had it pulled. Which is like time travel to the Middle Ages if you could bring novocaine with you. Like, all the instruments are metal and she’s using brute force to prise this thing from the bone beneath your gum, and… I cut out about a paragraph of vivid description here, but you get the drift. So very medieval. But of course, cleaner and with novocaine, so who am I to complain? And yet even the medicine for the dry socket afterwards is basically a salve made from dried cloves. Cloves! (I’ll let you figure out what dry socket is, but suffice it to say it’s way worse than it sounds.)
On the other hand, the tooth Mica found last weekend was not mine. I left mine at the dentist’s office after taking a photo of it (which surprised everyone in the room including me.) He found his old tooth inexplicably with a note he’d written the tooth fairy over a year ago. It was after the painters had come last week and repainted our bathroom, cleaning things off of cabinets and high shelves and placing them randomly wherever a twenty-two-year old painter places things.
Who understands why the tooth fairy does these things? I’ll tell you I don’t. I don’t understand why I keep eating sugary foods even after enduring a tooth removal, but I digress.
He was heartbroken. And so was I.
He got a thank you note from the tooth fairy the next morning along with a second magical dollar coin for his find. A good deal overall, but I think we both knew the truth of it.
Two days later, right after my fourth clove-breath follow-up visit to my periodontist, I went to see my dermatologist for my twice yearly screening and she said, “We’ve done your whole body and you look great! Now all we have to do is your face and you’re all set… (face, face, face.)” So I left that appointment with a band aid in the middle of my forehead and a scheduled visit that will involve inside and outside stitches that may or may not have the upside of tightening my frowny eyebrow lines even as it bores a hole into my third eye.
Yup. It’s all a sort of assault. Physical and emotional. Like the news and the government shutdown and figuring out how these preadolescents of ours see the world. Just a constant annoying assault.
And I can’t get mad. Not at the news (oh, that’s a hard one), the third eye, the socket in my mouth where I now store food like a squirrel, or the children who can’t find their shoes or homework or sense of responsibility for their own actions. I mean, what would anger get me anyway except an increased desire for midday sugary snacks and deeper frowny lines on either side of my soon to be enhanced third eye.
So in my head I’ve decided to be Luna Lovegood. She would embrace the third eye and the super secret squirrely mouth socket, I bet.
It’s earned me some side eye from my husband and anyone who’s ever met me. Ever. Because I’m no Luna Lovegood by nature. I mean, what would Luna Lovegood say if you said you didn’t want to practice the piano? She’d likely suggest you play the erumpent horn or dance with Nargles. If you said you couldn’t find your shoes she’d say, “No, I think I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up… it always does in the end.” She wouldn’t guilt you or judge or push forward or try hard (in any way that is discernible.) And she definitely wouldn’t yell at you until she saw stars.
And it’s not that she doesn’t care. She cares deeply. She’s just willing to wait and see what happens, willing to see the good in people, to forgive, to wander off topic or talk about something really hard or not talk at all. She both reads the room and doesn’t give a crap what the room happens to think. She seems to be without ego. And yet she stubbornly believes in Nargles and all manner of bullshit magical thinking. She likely believes in clove paste and most certainly has met the tooth fairy.
I told my daughter I was trying to be more like Luna Lovegood. She said, “But the ugly radish earrings, Mama!” To which I replied, “Have you seen this?” (points to hole in forehead) “Who am I to judge magical vegetable earrings?” Who are any of us.
In the final book she was kidnapped from the Hogwarts Express and sent to live in the basement of the evil Malfoys. But when the cool kids showed up she was calm and cheery, contained. She saves Harry. She saves Neville. And she mostly doesn’t do it by slaying dragons or even casting horrible spells. I mean, her Patronus is basically a bunny.
And yet she’s strong. Crazy strong. “We should close his eyes, don’t you think?” she asks Harry as she gently strokes the dead house elf hero’s eyelids, an elf who has been with us for six gosh darn books. Harry can only nod. “There. Now he could be sleeping,” she finishes.
When faced with a riddle needed for entry into her Ravenclaw dorm Harry is asked, “Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?” Without fanfare Luna steps in to answer for Harry. “…I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.”
She’ll make an amazing mother someday. The kind of mother I struggle to be, what with my penchant for yelling or crying or trying, trying, trying. I mean, “a circle has no beginning” is pretty much always the answer, if only we could come up with it in the moment, while faced with a surprising tooth or a struggling child or middle age.
What if as a parent or a person I didn’t need to have all the answers. Or most of the answers. Or any answers at all.
I wrote to an amazing educator type person this week that I just wanted to see into the future and know generally that things were going to be okay. Basically I said, “If I could just know that out there in the world there were lots of people who had dealt with what my kid is figuring out and two had become Grammy winners, one had won a Pulitzer prize, two were very hip soccer dads, one was a successful fresco restorer, one had started a great pizza joint, and that none were serial killers, I’d feel so much better.” I just meant I wanted to see that future in my mind’s eye, where my children can find where they left their cars, hold down jobs, be responsible and caring lovers and spouses, fathers or mothers.
And that smart teacher type person Luna-ed me. “Everybody is trying to outrun their reality to be famous and knocking down other people in the process. It will be grand when this kid can just go, “This makes me feel out of control. I am sitting down so I don’t punch anyone.””
Let me tell you, for all preadolescents, that’s a lofty goal. For me too. Not that I punch with my actual fist, but that punching feeling, that hole in my jaw, hole on my forehead, why can’t they find their goddamn shoes feeling.
“My mum always said things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” That’s what she said about those shoes that keep disappearing, but I suspect she was talking about something much bigger as well.
So I’m Luna-ing it for real. I mean it this time. Deep breathing, forgiving others and myself, being present without being bossy, basically waiting to see what happens. I’m going to walk with the Nargles and let my freaky radish earrings dangle, may all the lost shoes be damned.