For some reason I remembered this morning the day I turned fourteen. I was so unholy excited I told EVERYONE. By everyone, I mean everyone. The train conductor, the ticket checker at the train station, the waiter at the coffee shop where I had breakfast, and all my classmates and teachers. It became a joke for my teachers, because I had been telling them about it for DAYS.
In retrospect, I have absolutely no idea why. I mean, it was a nice birthday. I had my friends over. I got several books as gifts, and I think my mom bought me boots.
I suspect it was the perception of a threshold. Fourteen, for some reason, impressed me as grown up, an age at which I could be courted, an age at which I could move on from the sort of semi-independence of a tween, to the real world.
I think a lot of us — possibly more a lot of me — have that sort of impatience to grow up. When I was three or four, I remember being upset at wasting time being a kid, when I could be out and doing stuff. Only I didn’t know how to do the stuff I wanted to do (at that age, mostly travel and “work” which was a nebulous thing, but patently very important) and so I was forced to wait.
Back then people told me to enjoy childhood/tweenhood/adolescence/young adulthood.
Yeah, I know this is normal. But I never told my kids that, because I’ve found each new stage of life has proven to be more fun, and oh, yeah, I wouldn’t go through my teenage years again for half the time and double the pay. Each stage of life finds me more competent, and therefore able to DO and engage more with the world. Which is (isn’t it?) what we’re here for.
Oh, sure, I wouldn’t mind sending my MIND back to my twenties, say, so I had warning of things, like what was ahead for indie, and also so I was more trained than anyone could be at that age. But barring that, no, I wouldn’t want to relieve it.
The thing about being young is that one is so afraid of so many things, and so many of them stupid. I spent half of my life terrified of giving offense, of saying something not socially approved, of thinking divergent thoughts. Half a life is enough to waste on that, and I’m glad to be over it.
I can’t say I’m very excited about my birthday today. It’s a birthday. But something brought to mind that long ago birthday, something made me think, some commonality between them.
And I realized, like that long ago birthday, this birthday is a threshold. I’m standing at the gateway to a life different than what I’ve known for the last years — long enough years to be a lifetime back when humans were more short-lived — and I know it because of the way I’ve had to adapt. Oh, sure, in recent years a lot of the onerous duties of motherhood have gone by the way side. I no longer think of meal times as ordeals by interruption, where I had to cut up meat, right glasses, etc, and only afterwards could consider eating, unless there was another emergency and there was no time. (I think it’s where I’ve acquired my very bad habit of grazing. Why bad? Because I tend to concentrate on things I can grab and carry. It’s not as bad now that I am low carb. A cheesestick is a cheesestick, but I remember when the kids were little, eating a whole bag of marshmallows, because it was on the counter and I could grab one at a time when I walked by.
But there are still things. In the last few years my main mommy function has been making sure they’re up and ready for college; cooking breakfast so I can foist it on them on their way out the door; washing their clothes if they’re having exams and I see signs of recycling; losing afternoons to them when they want to talk. That sort of thing.
It’s weird to not have those interruptions. I keep expecting them and not getting them.
Which brings us to “well the last four to five years have been miserable for writing” and yes, part of it was the hypothyroidism, but the other part is that I do better with a regular schedule, which I lost once the kids went to college. THAT at least should be better.
And I’m finding a lot of other things that should be better (more as I get new glasses and start driving again.) I remember my parents going through this. I know that is going to sound weird, but I was the much younger child, and my presence wasn’t enough to hold the structure of the house. Also, I was cursed independent, and was usually too busy for them to keep my schedule, or a schedule for me. Also, I cooked for myself and took care of my own clothes.
So the routine of the house gave way, once my brother married. And suddenly I discovered my parents were able to do things like “Today we went to the beach. Make yourself a sandwich.” Or knocking at my door on a weekend and going “Wanna go visit such and such place? Come one.” And I’d go if I didn’t have a test that week.
The way to describe it is that after years of being tied down to child care, they became more flexible. We too are finding more flexibility. Not extreme, since Dan still has to work, but things don’t need to be done the way they always were. And I can either go more froo froo in cooking — because I’m not working around kids’ likes and dislikes — or announce “today is grab it yourself” with a clear conscience.
But more than all of that, I have a feeling that there is more, that I’m about to embark on a life as different from the last 24 years as my life as a teen was from young married life. How? I don’t know. It’s not old age, yet. That will come, but as my dad said, thank heavens these days the time between 55 and 75 is not old age, but a kind of new maturity. Yes, you have things that slow you down, but modern medicine is wonderful, and they don’t need to STOP you. You have to be more careful about your sleep and your exercise, and what you eat, because you’ll pay for it, but you’re not yet noticeably impaired.
This is something our ancestors didn’t have. It is possible, now, to start a career after the kids and have a full career, for most people. Which is good.
I loved having the kids, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, either their childhood or my friendship (unlooked for, but it happened) with the adults they’ve become.
But now I have time to concentrate on the career and to discover other things. Stand by as I pivot to it, and get rid of my last reflexes of worrying about the kids every hour of the day.
I have a feeling there are things I don’t even understand yet, which will make these years very rewarding.
I’m crossing the threshold into a new place, a new phase of life.
I wonder what it holds.