Reprinted from "All About Motherhood: A Mom for All Seasons and Other Essays" available at www.iUniverse.com or your favorite online bookstore. Happy Passover, Easter, and Spring to all!
Motherhood isn’t a seasonal thing: it blooms all year. But the state of being a mother has its seasonal aspects, and the seasons do affect mommies in certain fairly predictable ways, just as we know that the lilacs will blossom in April, and the oak leaves will drop in the fall.
When I was a newlywed girl (i.e., without children), autumn meant virtually nothing, other than a few snappy new office outfits and a couple of crunchy apples I might pick up in a Manhattan fruit stand. Winter meant driving in snow, and spring and summer sure looked nice from my office window, but other than on my two-week vacation, I didn’t really experience the seasons in any palpable manner.
Motherhood changed all that, and suddenly the seasons took on a new, absorbing power. Summer, for instance, is now everything in a way that it never was before kids. The sounds of children splashing in water, the movement of small bodies chasing fireflies across the yard, the whirring of cicadas mixed with the crashing of screen doors, and the excited voices of kids helping (and hindering) as we pack for vacation hold new and incomparable places in my heart and memory. Just simply the question of what to do with kids in the summer lends a vibrancy and urgency hitherto unknown.
At the end of August, what mother doesn’t feel the finale of summer and the excitement of “back to school” in the very fiber of her bones? Suddenly, mothers everywhere are talking about backpacks and jeans, sneakers and jumpers, and where to get the best buy on notebooks. Autumn means getting back into a regular routine; coaxing kids out of bed earlier, darker nights, homework and soccer. Apple picking trips, bright, crisp Saturdays searching for pumpkin patches, Halloween costumes, taking up the trumpet again or the piano; fingers stretching over the keys, hesitant blasts into the cool air. Autumn with kids is filled with new experiences. While traditionally leaves fall, greenery fades (okay, let’s be up front about it, things die), kids trot off to school in brand-new clothes, ready to learn all new things in a new class with a new teacher. What mother doesn’t shiver with the sheer novelty and thrill of it all?
Then comes winter, a season I used to dread. But hey, here we have the holidays—the lights, presents, pageants, songs, and all the festivities that suddenly take on a new brilliance because they involve our children. Snow isn’t just a clogged road anymore: it’s a snow day, a chance to sled down our hill with the dog chasing at our heels, it’s a reason to go outside and actually frolic! (something I certainly never did in weather below sixty degrees before children). Suddenly, even winter has its highlights; the crunching sound of boots in the snow, the early nights to bed, the warm baths and soft quilts, the little tongues stretching out to taste a snowflake even though we warn against it! With kids, winter’s a whole ‘nother ball game.
Next comes spring. At last, they can ride their bikes after dinner, they can haul out their rollerblades and skates, plant some marigold seeds, hit some homers. But spring isn’t just the good stuff. For a mom, it’s also the time of dirty, muddy sneakers tracking into the house, the time when it’s absolutely fruitlessly impossible to keep the floors clean, the time when the kids are so wired and hyped by the change in the temperature and the impending end of the school year that they don’t want to finish their homework, and they may be impudent and foul-mouthed. It’s a time of rain, and general agitation mixed with the relief that spring always brings.
Then, it’s over, and we begin again. Naturally, this all goes more swiftly than we imagined, and we can hardly believe it’s summer already, or that summer is ending, or that winter is here. But that’s just the nature of it all, and the nature of motherhood, too. We can’t believe that our baby is now two, or six. Or…17.
And then there’s the fact that motherhood has its own inherent seasons; the newborn phase when everything is fresh and wonderful (spring), the autumn (toddler) phase when we’re getting a little annoyed now and then, the winter phase (with older children) when we’re feeling fed up and can’t remember why we ever had kids in the first place, and then the summer when we’ve really matured and grown into our roles, when we just take a deep breath and realize how incredibly, wonderfully lucky we are.Yes, the seasons mean more to mothers than perhaps to anyone else. They not only mark the passing of time and the growth of our children, but they reflect our own growth as women who are mothers. And somehow, when we become mothers, the smell of a dark autumn night, or the sound of a child giggling across the smooth, summer water of a lake, or the sigh of a baby we rock in a sleepy, spring breeze just takes on an entirely different meaning. We’re mothers now, and the seasons have a significance we never before could have known or fathomed.