Since I've been feeling better, I've had all kinds of creative urges. I picked up my camera and started experimenting with my photography again. And I also participated in a mini musical presentation at my church last week. And now I've been singing and dancing around the house like crazy—much to Julia and Elise's delight!). I even dusted off the piano and played some songs (albeit with very clumsy fingers). With all this creative energy, I've been most obsessed with completing a paper collage that I conceived of long ago. I've been in and out of craft stores a dozen times this week stocking up on glue, paper, and brushes.
Even though I consider myself artistic in many ways, I'm not very crafty. I can't draw or paint or sew. And I have stacks of unfinished scrapbooks piled in the back of my closet. But, nevertheless, there's something about creating art with my hands that is extremely satisfying. Yet normally my urge to be crafty lasts for about one day and then the mess of all the paper and glue makes me go berserk. The last two weeks, however, I've found myself unable to resist the urge to work with my hands. I've been cutting and gluing in an effort to create a portrait collage of Julia. And something about the process has helped me cope with the idea of having three children.
When I became a mother, I learned something about myself: I don't like feeling out of control. I like order, balance, and tranquility. Of course, having children can turn our ordinary lives into a tumultuous roller coaster ride. Normal tasks suddenly become harder to execute. Simple is never simple anymore.
Take this week. I took the girls to the beach to feed some seagulls. We grabbed a stale bag of bread and then proceeded to take twenty minutes to get our coats, hats, and proper footwear on before we made it out to the car. When we finally made it to the beach, we meandered down to the shore. There were two lonely seagulls gliding nearby. We tossed some bread. A few moments later, the two were pecking at the bread. Another moment later one of the birds gave a short "cah-caw" and suddenly a whole flock showed up for the feast. Julia tossed the bread, and the gulls advanced towards us. We backed up, but because Elise refused to relinquish her piece, the birds came at us aggressively for her bit. They swarmed us, hovering just above my head. Julia started to cry. I started to swat and scream. Suddenly we were running for it. When we made it to the other side of the beach, breathless but otherwise unharmed, I asked Julia if she wanted to take a walk since the seagulls were gone. But she was so freaked out, all she wanted to do was go home. Elise, on the other hand, thought the whole thing was thoroughly entertaining and shrieked and kicked when I tried to coax her into the car. But when I tried to persuade Julia to stay, she burst out crying in fear.
No, simple is never simple anymore. A quick jaunt to the beach can quickly turn into an angry seagull fiasco. So at times, adding another baby to the mix seems like insanity. I know I'll love this baby with as much all-consuming passion as I love the girls, but I do worry about my ability to handle three with any amount of grace.
My need for order and control has often been my biggest weakness as a mother. I often run around feeling so stressed and harried, that I fear I might explode into a million pieces at any moment. But for the most part, this free-fall feeling I so often get is self-inflicted. My need for organization and perfection can't really exist unless I want to live without any real passion or zest. And I certainly don't want my girls to inherit by need to control every situation so rigidly.
My crafty week has taught me something about letting go. When I looked at my dining room table full of scraps of paper, globs of glue, and dangerous sharp cutting tools (that the girls were fascinated with), I had the urge to abandon the project at once. But my urge to create something was greater, and I pressed forward. After a while, I stopped caring that Julia was smearing glue every where, nor did I worry about the huge tub of paper and ribbon that was now dumped on my floor. Instead I focused on my art. And in the end, I created a beautiful collage that I was quite pleased with. But more than just beautiful art, I realized if I can learn to let go a little and embrace the messiness and unpredictability of motherhood, the result will be the three little masterpieces I've created in my children.
Shelley Abreu is a freelance writer who also loves music, photography, and the occasional messy craft.