Baby,  Essay,  Life Story

by the twentieth of August

note: I’ve simplified the comment form. it should be much easier to comment now–no need to log in. so sorry to you kind ones who’ve had troubles in the past.

In the morning one tiny ant bravely tugs a speck of bread off the table, in the afternoon there’s a carnival of them celebrating under the lavender planter, a feast of popcorn kernels and graham cracker sludge arranged around the edge like banners.

With three children about me now, the fun has accelerated. But so has everything else. Time is passing in a terrifying, groundless way. I have been given nothing but an accumulation of wonderful experiences and yet, I long for more. I long to exist inside of each day of the last five years at the same time.

Feeling cheated by the passing of time, I begin to feel cheated by everything. An experience not had. An afternoon that was not perfect. A recipe I haven’t made. A lake I’ve never swam in.

I am greedy for all of life’s pleasures; and it feels like I deserve them. I’m like a drunk bidding on eBay for the goods of carpe diem and all the auctions are ending tonight.


It’s the baby Alma that’s rubbed off on me. “Babies are born hedonists” says the Happiness Scientist. The day was meant for pleasure. Skin is meant to be grazed. If we sit next to each other, she worms her way closer to me until our arms are brushing. There can never be too much stretching and grabbing. Nor too much napping. Nor staring into stranger’s faces, but only if they are pleasant or, we might say—handsome. Nor too much chewing on golden ripe slices of mango, with the peel attached. She is so certain that everything placed within in her field of vision is for her that she grabs at each new thing with authority. 

At night I try to organize files— I know I’m only going to stay awake for twenty minutes, why not do something purposeful and minute—and I click into a grainy near-dark video of my oldest playing peek-a-boo in Rome in front of the Pantheon. If the water was rippling in the right way, her face, at that age, would be a be a reflection of Alma’s. I feel that no time has past from then, and yet I finally got Lux to a dentist this week and she found cavities and examined me with a shocked expression that this was Lux’s first visit. From a certain tiny tooth’s perspective: five long years of decay!

Every year that has ever passed suddenly seems like too much. No more years, no more months, please. This must be women why become witches. Ever notice it’s always a woman who offers the chance to control time in those old fables? There was one I used to love—she gives out a glossy ball of string, it’s your lifetime wound up like a yo-yo. Tug it slightly and the moment will fly past, tug it more, and the year with a bad bully at school is over. No rewinding though, as our heroine soon learns.

I can’t seem to teach them enough, but then they mimic me and cry “look!” at every dropped leaf and I also wish they would be quiet. I want to read them books all day but I also wish they would stop banging the wall with their knees rhythmically while we do. They try. They forget. I wonder if I am as moody as they are; I think I might be.

We need no agenda, it seems just a shady tree would satisfy us all day. Then the next day, an agenda and lots to do. I rush them from pleasant spot to pleasant spot, feeling validated by the quick pace of our shoes on the sidewalk.


  • Meg Cusack

    A carnival of ants…like a drunk bidding on eBay….love it! Yes, “time passes much too quickly, when we’re together laughing”.

  • Shawn B

    Love this dearly….the passage of time weighs on me so much that I become nostalgic for the present! Your wrote it beautifully. Motherhood just squeezes your heart dry.

  • Susannah

    Spot on writing here! I’ve found motherhood to be the most delightfully painful experience I’ve ever had. So many seemingly opposing feelings all jumbled up together. I have three children, too, and although I feel like I’m drowning most of the time, I can’t seem to quiet the part of me that says “just one more.” Thanks as always for sharing.

  • Ashley

    With our oldest starting kindergarten tomorrow, this felt especially poignant. But it would resonate on any other day as well. Such lovely writing–I read it aloud to my husband. Thank you!

  • Ashley

    Now that I can comment I don’t know what to say! I’ve become so used to keeping it to myself. I think I’ve decided you’re an essence writer. Like there are these things that are mostly the stuff of essence and you put it in a way to take in your pocket. Which for the topic of motherhood feels so relieving;)

  • lila

    This is beautiful, poignant … and totally my life, too. I have three girls too, just about the same ages. And we just made it to the dentist for first time. And it’s been the fastest, fastest year of my life, racing from shady tree to shady tree. Thank you!

  • Guro Nygård

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My oldest just startet school and I’m back in my job after a eigth months leave with my youngest (dad takes the rest of the leave since he has to take ten weeks anyway, Norwegians as we are). Your writings feels so relevant and true and honest.

  • bryson

    “I’m like a drunk bidding on eBay for the goods of carpe diem and all the auctions are ending tonight.”

    I just spat lukewarm coffee all over my laptop but I swear, that sentence is the perfect way to sum up this thing called motherhood.

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