Friday, March 2, 2012

On Middle-Aged Mothering

There's a conventional wisdom which suggests that having one's children while being a younger person is preferrable to having them when one is an 'older' person. I've tried to Google up a nice quote on this, however, my pc is too PC and won't supply me with some nice, witty quip. Instead, I've been confronted by this peanut gallery:

First, the musings of 30 Rock star Tracey Morgan: 
     "You've got society telling young boys and girls not to have kids. I grew up with my kids. I wasn't 50 years-old when I decided to have my child so I can't play because I've got arthritis or we don't listen to the same music, we don't relate ... No, have your children when you're young and grow."

Anyone on board with this knucklehead? (Who, by the way, I love on t.v.)  Apparently so....

one poster concurs: "I'm not saying TOO young, I'm saying like 25-30 range, because then you can actually PLAY with your kids. Young kids need an active parent, not someone who has to sit down after 20 minutes because their back aches."  

Advil, anyone? Doan's Back Pills?

Followed by this bit of thoughtful advice: "Yes you should be young enough to have fun and enjoy them. It would have been good to be more settled in my career and for us to have had more money but we got by and I was able to spend a lot of time with my boys." (Less insulting but still a bit of a narrow view.)

and lastly, some wisdom for the ages:
     "YES! Have them when you're young and stupid, (like I did) so at least you can keep up with them!"

First, let me say that I don't take any of this to heart for myself. There's a little bit of truth there, in that it is harder to chase a child around than it used to be. However, I am also mature enough to have the patience and smarts to get a child to come to me instead of chasing them. I think this sort of smarts has to count for something. Perhaps it's because I'm an older parent (and not so inclined to running) that my son learned early on: any runaway attempts won't end up in a repeated game of "Mama chases me when I run away", instead, he had a mandatory invitation to sit in the stroller because "when Mama calls you back over,  you come right away". 

And really, how much of one's 'parenting' is spent running? Unless you are an athlete and enjoy chasing your tyke around, running does not require youth or even glowing health. I don't particularly care for the activity of running, but this is due to an inherited tendency to roll my ankles, not aging. Besides, we have a No Running In the House rule. And safety gates. Safety gates limit the amount of ground they can cover and not get hurt on stairs or a woodstove. I've got four gates in our house and yes, I am a genius because I have created a situation where I rarely have to run after my child. See how that works? Forethought, maturity and wisdom get the slam-dunk on this one. 

I think we need to reassess the advantages of having children a bit later in life. I am glad that Joe and I had Kiddo as older parents. Everyone has their own life stories, their own family histories...mine precludes being a younger mom, for so many good reasons. I feel lucky, really. Being an older parent, I had a chance to get my personal life a bit more squared away. My career informs my work as a  parent, so that's another point in my favor--everything I've learned as a nanny and preschool teacher brings a 'plus' to my relationship with my son. Joe and I also had five years together before becoming parents. This gave us a lot of time to really learn about each other, and while parenting is never an easy undertaking for any couple, I think we did better than we would have done, had Kiddo come along sooner. 

We also have an added bonus in life experience. We've had time to live, to decide what's important to us. For Joe, who's been around the world and back again, the early nights at home rarely give him a sense that he's missing out. We've done the Late Nights Out at clubs or movies, the Art Parties, the Poetry Happenings, the party-all-weekend camping trips... and we know what we've traded away, becoming (hopefully, responsible) parents. We miss being more available to our friends, and to be truthful, I miss those uninterrupted-by-kids conversations we could have before. But there's something more rich in our lives, a child who makes us know how necessary we are, even if only to him--but also to each other. Before Kiddo, Joe and I would joke to each other "No matter what, we'll always have cribbage." Nearly five years after having Kiddo, it's easy to see how much his addition to our family gives to us as a couple. We have more structure, we are comfortable going at the slower kid-pace, and we get a chance to learn things anew, be they dinosaurs, creatures of the tidepool, the names and nomenclature of every.single.big.machine. All of this enriches us as human beings. Learning better ways of parenting challenges us to look at ourselves and our own habits anew, to reexamine what we've taken for granted about ourselves and each other. 

Some of my best moments come from seeing Joe, so tall, holding hands with Kiddo as they walk, or scooping him up for a big hug and kiss goodnight. Seeing this big man, who so captivated me with his poetry and exuberant gregarious manner--seeing him snuggle our son makes me so thankful that he's the guy who I'm doing this 'family thing' with. I like that he is an older guy as a parent, that he's happy to be responsible and to wait until after the bedtime routine before going out to meet friends or watch 'grown-up tv'. Perhaps this sort of consideration is brought to us courtesy of age and Time Spent On Earth and life experience? I can't say that for sure, but I believe it is the case with us. 

None of this is meant to be critical of the younger parents, by the way. I just know that I would have made a lousy younger parent. We are happy to be 'older parents'. My family keeps me centered. Grateful. Thankful for how things are right here, right now, as a middle aged mama. Tracy Morgan may be right in stating that you get to grow up with your kids, but for me, I think that would have been the silver lining, not the sunshine. I am glad I was grown up enough to feel good being the parent, and that while I'm not going to be hip to all of Kiddo's favorite bands or movies, I don't have to be. He'll have friends to share that with--my job is to be The Mom. Not the Hip Mom or the Cool Mom, just Kiddo's Mom. I like the separateness of our ages and I'm comfortable with this. I might not be a spring chicken. I might end up being a bit like Crazy Mom, when he's in his mid-teens and menopause fully descends upon my being. But heck, every kid needs a few Crazy Mom stories to grow up with and share, right? It's perfect timing, because he'll be a teen and teens are supposed to be annoyed with their old, square parents. It's called separation, right?When they begin to discover that they don't want to stay at home with these "cool people" forever, but maybe get some education or a job and get the hell out of there?  I'm glad to be a grown-up before I took on this big jumble of love, responsibility, frustration and joy.

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