I left the breakfast table messy with plates and empty glasses. I felt hormonal and lonely and bored with motherhood. I rested horizontal, eyes closed, hoping a little quiet would cure my ailments.
I forced myself off the couch twenty minutes later, still hormonal, lonely, bored. And to make matters even more delightful, I found my toddler, Reece, at the breakfast table dolloping lotion into the open can of pineapple. Clumps of white goo swam in the juice along with the fruit.
Time for a new plan. Surely, getting out of the house would help shake this hormonal state.
I went upstairs where Melisandra and Corrigan were playing to tell them we were going to the library for a class called Awesome Artists.
“Can’t we stay home?” Melisandra asked. She’s nine. She worried she wouldn’t know anyone.
“It’s just two hours,” I said. “And we’ll be home this afternoon.”
“But we’re having fun here.” The toys all over their bedroom floor indicated lots of role playing and sisterly camaraderie. They were having a good day. Maybe they didn’t need an art class.
“It’s a nice summer day. And what a great opportunity to learn about important artists. It’ll be fun ….” Blah, blah, blah. It would’ve been easier to stay home. I wanted to stay home. But the flyer said, “Paint and create the way famous artists do. Learn new styles and techniques to create masterpieces.” Doesn’t that sound fun? Educational? A means of cheering all the blues away? It was a free event hosted by our local children’s museum.
As soon as we stood in the entrance of the community room, I wanted to turn around. I didn’t see a teacher or expert or any sense of organized instruction on artistic techniques. I saw a room of tables set up as stations, and each station was an activity.The room whirled with movement, kids walking from plaster to clay to paper collage, moms following, some pushing strollers, and museum staff strolling about in their signature blue t-shirts assisting where needed.
Where was the formal instruction? The art history? The differentiation of a Monet from a Rembrandt?
I wanted a class, not chaos. I have taken my girls to events like this. I have helped my kids with their projects while we participants all compete for art supplies. I have balanced all-wet artwork on my palm and set it on the van seat, hoping to get it home without tears, without ruining their “art.” I have been there, done that with meaningless craft projects I will later throw in the trash. I don’t want to do that anymore.
I am bored with arts and crafts when I’m not hormonal. When my levels of estrogen and progesterone are on overload that distaste for felt and foam and glue-on eyes raises my blood pressure and makes me especially ill-equipped to play along.
“I’m sorry. This isn’t what I thought. We don’t have to stay. We can go home.” I wanted to grab them by the hands and and run to the van.
“What do you mean?” Melisandra said. “It looks like fun.”
Corrigan, who’s five, said, “And I see a friend from my gymnastics class.” She’s always excited to see others.
And so, we went in.
I got Melisandra and Corrigan started at the plaster table, and when Reece wanted to play too, I told her no. My anxiety was morphing into resentment. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be impatient when Reece filled her nails and fingers with gooey plaster, but my body wasn’t cooperating. I carried her to the lobby, where I could sit and watch through the doorway with her sitting in my lap. Hugs and smiles would have to be enough to distract her from all this art-making fun.
I felt calmer in the lobby–just Reece and me. I breathed. I watched other families come and go from the main entrance to the community room. This class was more of an open house than an educational event. The “styles and techniques” piece mentioned on the flyer consisted of framed tabletop text to be read independently. The one at the table where kids made plaster said, “Many artists use plaster as a means to create their art.” Oh, really?
I went back in to check on Melisandra and Corrigan. They had moved from plaster to the station of painting paper lunch sacks with tempera paint. I was annoyed. What artist ever used paper lunch sacks to create art? I looked for framed tabletop text to explain, but there was none to be found.
“Hey girls, we’re going to leave in fifteen minutes.” It was 10:15. The event went until noon.
Perhaps the sacks were intended for kids to carry their artwork home. But kids had been slathering their sacks in paint, leaving them wet and ineffective as a goodie bag.
Melisandra had dipped her brush in paint and was about to start. All I could focus on was how that bag would get slathered in paint. She had to be stopped. I said, “You don’t need to paint that to use it.”
Because I don’t want that stupid lunch sack in my life. I knew saying that aloud would make me sound like a terrible mother.
A tween, a tall girl with a brunette ponytail hunched over the table painting her sack said, “They’re supposed to paint the sacks.” Her tone indicated she knew the right answer from the wrong answer, and my answer was definitely in the category of being wrong.
“Well,” I said, lacking any coherent comeback, “they don’t need to.”
I don’t think Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, or Louise Bourgeois were inspired by paper lunch sacks. My brain, high on hormones, saw no practice of “style or technique” in painting brown paper with bright colors.
“But painting these sacks is fun. They should do it.”
They “should” huh? Oh to think how close we come to the rage of others and don’t know it. I resisted spewing my swift monologue titled Don’t Sass Your Elders, You Little Prick.
“Girls,” I said, “We’re leaving in five minutes.”
“But you just said fifteen,” Corrigan said.
“Five minutes.” I took Reece and retreated back to the lobby–before I could do, say, throw something I would regret later.
When I returned, I found the girls had not slathered their bags in paint. They had painted them with letters. Melisandra wrote her name in rainbow colors. Corrigan wrote in blue, M-O-M. “I was thinking of you, Mama,” she said. I felt charmed by her gesture. And undeserving.
We drove out of the parking lot. I heard the scream as Melisandra’s plaster project crumbled in her lap. She cried. Corrigan tried to console her. “You can still paint part of it,” she said.
So much for getting out on a nice summer day.
At home, we returned to our posts. My kids sat around the computer watching Littlest Pet Shop on Netflix. I hid behind my laptop, hoping they wouldn’t notice how I was enduring the hormones messing with my happiness, how my brain was perpetuating thoughts of boredom, how I was hanging on, struggling to remember: I am lucky to be Mom.