Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Old Mom






*Pictures from our latest excursion to my favorite store.

In my mind I'm 21.

Maybe 22.

 I don't deviate from this mental existence except on rare occasions.

1. When I accidentally turn my iPhone camera on in reverse and see an image of myself that can only be a reflection of Jabba the Hut's twin sister, complete with triple chin and the drooped eyelids of a stroke victim.

2. When I go to Dillard's to look at bathing suits, and the sales lady hands me something that looks like floss and says, "this is all the rage." So I try it on, cry, and come screaming out of the dressing room, "I have a child! I have four thousand puckers of cellulite! I have cankles! What were you thinking? Give me all the cupcakes!"

Last week I was privy to a group conversation. The general gist went something like this:

"I want to have my kids before 25."
"Yeah, that way if you want to have lots of kids there's plenty of time."
"Plus, you don't want to be that old parent taking your kid to kindergarten."
"Yeah, you should do it when you're young and you can enjoy your kids."

Now, granted, I'm no prehistoric mama. I was a smidge old for having my first child at 31, but on the grand scheme I probably won't be attending Jane's high school graduation on a gurney. At that moment I did not feel 21. I felt my full age of 33. Actually, I felt 40, because I could not have been on a further planet from them. I glanced around the group of young, happy, shiny faces and snorted.

I actually snorted. I didn't mean to, it just sort of came out of me, like a geriatric horse stomping and snorting because their grand-colt is galloping around and kicking up dust and irritating their allergies. That was me. A geriatric horse. Snorting. In public.

It created an awkward moment, and I was right there, right on the knife's edge of making a big speech.

I said, "My mom had her last child at 42."

They stared at me as if I had 42 heads.

I looked at their sweet faces, stifled the speech again and thought, "Nah. You fillies will figure this out on your own, one way or another." 

But today I'd like to make that speech. You know how it is. You get a speech all built up and ready in your mind, and then when you don't say anything it's like you've stifled a really big sneeze. It just sits there and every now and then knocks on the back of your brain, "Ahem, remember me? Can I come out any time soon? It's cramped in here with all these other speeches."

Lots of our friends had kids right after college. Heck, some of them had kids in college. Double heck, some had kids right after high school graduation. I make no judgments on that. They are good parents. Their kids are happy. It worked out.

But my toes curl when I hear this.

"Oh, you don't want to be the old mom."

So here's what I know. Being an "old" mom has secured things for me a young mother doesn't have. The key word is settled. A settled home. A settled career. A settled marriage. A settled social circle.

Jane gets the benefit of a mom who doesn't resent being home on a Saturday night while all her friends are out partying (at this point most of my friends are at home in their pajamas watching Gilmore Girl marathons).

Jane gets the benefit of a mom who's not searching for her identity or career (I figured that out long before she came along).

Jane gets the benefit of parents who can afford a home, good health insurance, plenty of diapers and a great daycare (something we didn't have in our early years).

Jane gets the benefit of our complete and total attention... let me qualify that.

When you're trying to secure a career, or worrying that you don't have one, or juggling bills without enough money to pay them, or dealing with a fledgling marriage, or rocky relationships, or partying friends, or all the other things that accompany being young... kids sometimes take a back seat. 

Jane doesn't know what the backseat looks like.

So while I'm not proposing a world where all mothers begin bearing children at age 30, I am saying... it's ridiculous to believe parents have to be young to enjoy their children. Because those "old" parents? They look at the struggling early 20's parents and feel sorry for them. We're not as poor. We don't yell as much. We may not be able to run very fast, but we make up for it by buying our kids the best bikes. We watch them ride from the comfort of our lawn chairs, toast each other with diet crystal light and say, "I'm so glad we waited."

 Being an old mom has its perks.