This room would be my rumpus room, where I could settle down on my big, feathery rump like a proud yet weary mama hen. It would be a room devoid of furniture, except for various colored swinging hammocks twirling from the ceiling, a few bookshelves, and easels galore – set up all over the floor! Next to the entry would run a long set of glass door knobs, lined all in a row. On each of these would hang a colorful muumuu of sorts – a kimono, a salwar kameez, a sari – robes women wear the wide world over. Each garment loose, colorful, bold…to slip over your shoulders and carry your imagination to far-away places, unfettered spaces. It’d be a room where no bra was required, no shoes were worn, no idea deemed too crazy to be born and brought to life. It’d be my very own nest of sorts, a ‘let’s dream the day away, let the spirit come and play‘ kind of space.
Because I believe the world is too much with us these days. Even our kids are too much with us. Everywhere we go we are inundated with ‘news’ and ‘entertainment’ and noise, noise, noise. We live in the most fruitful of lands, yet our children are unable to roam freely up hill or down, for fear of the unknown. Our children are tethered onto us mother hens much too tightly, and we feel we must be ever vigilant, ever encouraging, always entertaining.
And it’s too much! I don’t ever recall physically hanging onto my parents the way my kids do to me and D. I don’t recall ever expecting my parents to play a pretend game with us kids, or a board game, or take us places other than the occasional holiday or event or school function. Yet nowadays children must be enrolled in lessons and camps and enrichments galore…taken to see every movie that comes out and every theme park that crops up and we mothers must stay and supervise each activity. I do all these things, too, yet honestly I find it exhausting. It seems mentally and physically unsustainable without heaps of prozac, or oodles of wine, or the ability to go off on the weekends and run marathons all by yourself, or some other such ‘escape’.
Because kids nowadays are cooped up in these box houses like mice in cages. Occasionally we let them out, under optimal conditions, but of course we must go with them into the ‘world’. Long gone are the days when kids were set free in the morning and told to return at dinner, as long as they were big enough to totter out the door on their own two legs.
My girls have spent the last week splayed out on our couches, still in clothes from days of yore, hair undone, teeth unbrushed, completely wild. Then yesterday morning I had had enough. I told them all to groom. I begged them to redress. I urged them, collectively, to come up with a creative, non-tech game for the day, something besides watching ‘ANT farm’ for the millionth time.
My girls couldn’t even begin to adapt. No one could find clothes that they liked enough to put on. They fought over which colored tooth-brush belonged to whom. They roamed the kitchen like just-landed aliens, unsure what was edible, where the bread could be found, how did the microwave work again? Every single one of them adamantly denied that they were in any way responsible for the puddles of ice cream mysteriously dotting the hallway floor. Not a one of them brushed their hair or looked fit for life outside of a cage in any way, shape, or form.
So I nagged, barked, ordered, whined, threw up my hands in despair, checked how much wine was currently on hand…all while I simultaneously ‘mothered’ – I washed dishes and sorted laundry, bathed the baby (my sister’s son, whom I watch during the day now), took out the trash, organized mail, cleaned up ice cream from all over the house…you know, all that pesky stuff you have to do in addition to dealing with your actual kids! And then I marched back through the living room only to find every girl still lying prone on a couch, but now covered head to toe in white Elmer’s glue. Streams of white school glue drizzled down their undressed thighs and across their grimy arms. The girls stared blankly at the television set all while painting smiley faces and peace signs all over their skin as if this were the most natural activity in the world.
“What on earth are you doing?” I screamed.
No response. Just pairs of blank, round eyes staring at me in alarm.
Juliet actually picked up the Elmer’s glue bottle and dribbled more glue over her toes. “Look…” she began, and I unfroze myself and tore the bottle from her hand and gasped and looked to the heavens and managed to mutter…”Why, oh why, would you pour glue on yourselves all over my couches???”
“Don’t worry, Mom!” they all cried, harmonious at long last. “It dries right up and then we peel it off just like dead skin. See, we have bowls of already made dead skin right here. It’s super fun. You want to try?”
And that was it – my lightbulb moment. That’s when I realized that I’ve strayed from the course of historic ‘mothering’ in a mighty sense. Not because my kids were pouring glue all over themselves in the living room. No….the problem was they all earnestly thought I would drop everything and join in the fun! That I would ‘play’ whatever crazy game they concocted, no matter how many common sense rules it seemed to inherently break.
I swiftly shoved each girl into the shower. I threw every bottle of glue away. (Why, I don’t know. I just did!) And then I stared out the kitchen window while I supervised wet, whiny girls trying to rinse out ‘dead skin bowls’ and dreamt mightily of my muumuu room, all while saying aloud:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. – William Wordsworth
Nowadays, the world is too much with us. We all need an escape hatch now and then. We mothers need to realize that we are in an impossible social set-up. We’re birds that are supposed to teach our young to fly, yet have also been told it’s not safe for them to fly anywhere alone, so around and around the edge of the nest we prance, our little chicks falling all over themselves grabbing our rumps while we scratch our heads in dismay.
For the last two months, I took a hiatus from the world. I had no computer while in California, and no TV. I watched no news, read nothing but fifty shades of smut, wrote nada. And it was nice – freeing for my mind and soul.
Yet I spent almost every waking moment with my kids, as well as my sister’s two youngest children. Every day I carted those kids around on a whirlwind tour of California’s sunniest bits of sweetness, trying to soak up the sun while we were there.
And truly, we had oodles of fun. We swam with dolphins, cavorted with seals, frolicked with whales and peacocks and friends galore. We spent almost every day going to pools and parks and beaches and more!
Now our vacation is over, the ‘awesome adventure’ funds are way beyond depleted, yet still my kids clutch at my elbows, begging to go somewhere fun, do something cool, join a horseback riding camp like their friends at least – so used are they to ‘getting and spending’ every day in every way. Obviously this is mostly my own doing, but it’s also the cultural expectation of moms these days.
And it is too, too much! All us moms need to unite together and declare a truce on ‘getting and spending’. We need to just say “No!” to more activities and constant supervision and endless stuff.
Last night, as the sun set and the heat cooled a bit, my girls finally got off their duffs and went outside. After a while I, too, decided to take a walk, and as I rounded the corner I saw the little neighbor girl up at the tippy top of the apple tree in her front yard. My girls were down below, clasping big buckets against their tummies, running in circles, whooping and laughing with glee. Up above, the neighbor girl Abby shook that tree from side to side, while tiny crab apples rained down and my girls tried to catch them in their buckets. It was as welcome a sight to me as rain would be to a farmer in the midwest right about now. It was that needed, and that refreshing.
Because at long, long last, my chicks were out of my nest, and flying free, aloft in the world. The actual, natural, unmarketed world.
And I was able to spread my own wings for a bit and walk on, dream a little dream, of my ‘one day’ muumuu room, and all that that would mean…