Motherhood & Words

Fall is bittersweet for me. I love the cooler weather, the oranges and reds of the changing maples, but I hate what fall portends—those long, cold months trapped inside. Fall also makes me feel melancholy, heavy with the sense of time passing. I’ve been feeling this a lot in the last weeks, probably because I can’t deny time’s passing this year—Stella is starting kindergarten. We were up north at the cabin again last weekend, and when we arrived home on Monday afternoon, I looked at the calendar and realized she would be starting school in just over two weeks! I felt almost panicky—there were the school supplies and new school clothes to buy, the forms to fill out, etc. It all seemed like too much. It didn’t help, of course, that D was out of town.

D has been gone a week, and I’ve had it with single parenthood. The saving grace has been the two full days of childcare. On Tuesday morning after I dropped off the girls, I tied up the last piece of a seemingly endless freelance article, then dove into my manuscript for an hour. I met a friend for lunch, then spent the next couple of hours working on an editing project. Today, I plan to work on the book, go for a run!, and then back to editing in the afternoon. Heavenly.

In a week, however, these long days will be over. Stella will be in half-day kindergarten (it’s a lottery system here in Minneapolis), which is about, oh, two minutes long. So for the next year, I will write in the morning, come home to be with Stella (and Zoë on the days she’s not at toddler school). Then when Stella gets on the bus, I’ll have another few hours to work. Stella will be home early afternoon, and we’ll have a little time to do errands or crafty projects before we go get Zoë. I won’t have big chunks of work time, but I will still have more time total than I’ve had in the last year and a half. I’m gearing up to roll with it.

Yesterday morning Stella and Zoë and I went to Target and checked off the items on the kindergarten supply list, and this weekend, we’ll go shopping for Stella’s new school outfits (a ritual I remember fondly from my own childhood and teen years). Then in two weeks, I will have a kindergartner! How is it possible that my 3-pounder has become so big and tall that it is difficult for me to carry her? How is possible that that tiny baby, her fingers unable to close around my pinky, has grown into a beautiful, responsible girl, all sass and spunk? I suppose I will continue to ask these questions indefinitely, with every new milestone.

Do you ever stop marveling at this, how fast they grow?

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Emmie (Better Make It A Double) on August 20, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I doubt we do. I'm feeling it too lately – it's the long legs that do it; those legs that go all the way down to my knees if I attempt to carry them on my hips anymore. I'm also often amazed at what's happened to my skinny preemies. So happy that they are so healthy and strong, but it is going so fast, and it catches me in my throat every day. Love is so painful sometimes, even when it's filled with the grateful knowledge that things turned out OK after all, that the possibility of our worst fears coming true is well behind us. For me, sometimes part of that pain comes from the knowledge, etched into my very being, that I can never take those big smiles, long legs, and philosophical preschooler conversations for granted, never just assume that's just how it goes when you have kids. Having started out exposed to such trauma as you and I both have can infuse every joy with a sort of bittersweet-ness that comes from having survived it. And honestly, there are days when I wish I could just enjoy their well-being without that slightly painful and overwhelming gratitude, just take it for granted for a bit. It feels like a ghost that's not quite done with me sometimes.
    But kindergarten! A huge milestone regardless of any of that. I can't wait to hear how it goes. Hope to see you soon.

  2. Patty on August 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    this makes me want to cry!

  3. cath c on August 20, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    never. sniff.

    i wrote a bit about the weather today, too…posting tomorrow. a different take as i refuse to get caught up in the before school mayhem just yet…

    3lbs, wow. congratulations go to you for the kindergartener from that.

  4. Mary on August 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I'm still marveling and savoring, especially with Ruby (my youngest, though not a preemie) who'll turn 5 very soon. Today her cousin was trying to teach her to say "yellow" instead of "lellow" and I about lost it. I want those baby words, and all remnants of her toddlerhood to last just a wee bit longer.

    And my oldest is starting middle school…now how did THAT happen?

  5. Being Me on August 20, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Yes they grow up too fast.. I wish I had started blogging eons ago, or consistently journaled to remember the many little events of my 3 kids, once in a while I recall this and that, and I jot it down.. those are precious times, there will be more..Enjoy your momentss..

  6. cath c on August 21, 2009 at 7:39 am

    mary, i'm with you – i have one starting high school, one starting 5th grade and one just beginning to develop her language skills. just this week, her signing and saying 'mo pee' for more please is cracking us up, especially the questioning patient look on her face when she does as opposed to the urgent grunt and point.

  7. kate hopper on August 21, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I'm so glad I'm not alone in this!

    Emmie, I know exactly what you mean, how exhausting the constant gratefulness can be. But I do also feel grateful (there I go again) that I don't take their health for granted.

    No tears, Patty!

    Cath, I know. And I know what you mean about the pointing and grunting. Zoë is getting more words each day, but she still points and squeals when I don't understand what she wants!

    Mary, I feel the same way about the babyish words that Stella uses. She has called snowflakes "snowflags" for the longest time, and I love it. I know I'll be sad the first time it comes out properly.

    Being Me, you have reminded me of the importance of jotting those small things down. We did a much better job of this with Stella, but I have to get back to it now…

  8. amy on August 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Oh my goodness, Kate! I can't believe Stella is going to kindergarten. I feel like I'm going to cry. I'm not ready for Harper to go to school! (ok, well, she's five months old so I imagine she isn't either. But still! It will be here before I know it!)

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