Poem for Moms over 40
How Motherhood Changes Women
I used to be a poet. Ok, not a very good one, but I did manage to publish a few of my poems in art journals. When I was the mother of one, I read a poetry review by someone (I think it was Susan Bauer) who wrote that she too used to be a poet (a good one with several published volumes) but that 4 kids, a dog, and life in a van had pretty much wiped out the poetic instinct.
Back then, I laughed. Twenty years later, I understand. It is hard to think poetic thoughts when you spend a lot of time wiping up you-know-what off of bottoms ,and who-knows-what off the kitchen table. Don't let me even get going about the laundry (which, by the way, is actually finished, and will remain so for about the next 40 seconds).
I had my first child when I turned 35 and my second two years later. Somehow that made turning 40 a lot different than I had imagined. Fuller, richer and much bigger than life before. Life with kids makes you forget poetry because each day is a poem, full of unexpected twists, poignant meaning, and full-to-the-top emotions. That is what I wanted to express in a poem on my 40th Birthday.
On Turning 40
(for Maggie and Brendan)
“How old?” they say.
“Two and four.”
They must keep you busy,” they laugh.
I nod, “Yes.”
But do they know the rhythm of these days that fill me up,
so startled by the fullness?
Watching by the window as you point out birds—
“Chick-a-dee-dee-dee, he’s got a black head, look!
I see a cardinal. He’s all red; he must be the father.
Father birds are the prettiest.”
Pushing the swing at the park while your head flies back,
your arms move in time with mine.
Making sand balls for Brendan to throw against the fence,
while Maggie makes them into sand people
with sticks for arms and flowers for hair.
Stirring pudding, painting it on paper with our hands.
Feel the cold wetness and the smooth slide of paper
underneath our chocolate puddles.
Handing you umbrellas for jumping in the rain.
Pretending you will not get wet.
Abandoned in the game, the umbrellas fall to the ground.
You come running to the door, water streaming down your face
holding morning glories out to me.
Jumping in my best imitation of a schoolgirl,
One-two, one-two—so that you can see, and try to jump
Rope over, hop, miss. Jump again.
“I’m not very good at this.” Sad face.
“Oh, just keep practicing, it takes time.
I had to practice for a long time too.”
Clenching you tightly in my arms as blood falls from your finger.
You scream. Ice to stop the bleeding hurts more.
My heart is pounding, aching to undo the hurt, to sear it gone.
Smiling as you recognize a friend and hold your arms out-
hug and take her hand.
Singing with you crazy songs we make up as we go.
Hearing you make up your own songs for friends,
or to pass the time while waiting patiently for my phone call to end.
Laughing as you run yelling, “Daddy!” when the garage door opens.
Folding my hands to hear you pray.
For the trees, the tablecloth, my family, the clock, and
the windows to see the beautiful world Amen.”
Reading you stories about Abraham, Sarah, David.
Answering your questions, “Why did Jesus die?”
Your piercing questions about life and death,
God’s promise of redemption, and the cross.
The cross that you want to hear about over and over.
Wondering: How is the power of the crucifixion so strong
in the mind of a four-year-old?
Does God speak more vividly to a mind unworn
By daily doubts and fears?
Seeking for your face, your only-you face
in the crowd of children singing.
Mouthing the words; smiling to you.
“Away in a manger”
“Go tell it on the Mountain.”
For I know you will, you do.
Watching you tell your friends about Jesus,
Showing them about love, forgiveness, and gentleness.
Knowing you were created in me, of me,
yet have the spirit of God inside you, growing you to know Him.
I am the mother of two small children.
A life full, complete, enough.
I still write poems, just not very often. Mostly on scraps of paper I can't find. Left in drawers I haven't cleaned out for three years. Every once in a while, I discover one, and since it has been so long since I had seen it, it almost seems to be one written by someone else. On my 40th birthday, I was just the "Blessed Mom of 2." Sixteen years, three more kids and two washing machines later, it still expresses how I feel about my life. I am very blessed.