Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Geriatric Mom

A few years ago, a friend of mine who was pregnant at age 40 was lamenting that her doctors had labeled her a "geriatric pregnancy." I cringed at the term too, but in the back of my mind thought that there was no way I'd be having a geriatric pregnancy.

As a kid I'd loved having young parents. They'd had me when they were 20, and whenever I'd attended a school event they were almost always the youngest ones there. At the time I'd considered it bonus points, not realizing often they were subtly looked down on, or had assumptions made about them, because of their age.

It didn't help that my dad always talked about the trials of being the youngest and having older parents (his mom had him at 40). They were too tired to play, he was always saying. They acted out of touch. His mom smothered and embarrassed him. In high school I noticed the same trends with a friend who had older parents. She was the youngest and appeared to be an afterthought. Her parents, to me, looked as if they'd be ready to check into a nursing home soon. There is no way I'm going to have kids when I'm old, I remember thinking on numerous occasions.

Funny how life works out, sometimes.

Yes, I'm pushing 40 and have an infant. This thought doesn't always thrill me. I hate the thought of turning 80, God willing, when Chloe is my age now. I'm waiting for the day I show up with her at preschool or kindergarten registration and am the oldest one there. The thought of how far removed her high school experience will be from my own kind of takes my breath away. I wonder how I will avoid being completely out of touch.

But I can't think about these things all of the time. I can't change what is. More than that, I can't fix my gaze on that for too long, when with Chloe we have also been given several new gifts.

With Anna, with the first, there was the rush to every milestone. We probably started her on solids too early just because we really wanted to see her reaction to them. When she's going to start crawling? When's she going to be old enough to go to the children's museum? When's she going to talk? The camera was always out, the baby book ready.

At the same time, with both of the older kids, every negative phase was a disaster. Ethan's poor sleeping habits had me pouring through books, drafting schedules on the computer and not leaving the house for days at a time to try to get him on track. I burst into tears about Anna's potty training woes at a mom's group, even while a rational part of my brain knew that the girl wouldn't be wearing diapers to college.

Add to that the tension about Ethan hitting certain milestones late, and I would sum up the kids' infant years as being a huge mixture of fun, tiring, busy, and stressful. Which maybe sounds like most families. But there's another word I need to add: quick. This is, of course, what you don't see when you're in the middle of it all. "The days are long but the years are short," they say, but still that's a point easier understood looking in the rearview mirror.

Chloe helps me see that I did learn something, these past 10 years, and maybe if I'm wise, I will put it into practice. The words patience...grace...peace...and presence come to mind.

She's almost six months and we have yet to feed her anything from a spoon, because I know...there's no rush.

She's trying to get up on her knees and scooch herself around, and for the first time, while excited for her, a little part of me says slow down, little one.

She still doesn't often sleep all the way through the night, and through blurry eyes in the morning I can choose, instead of tensing up, to say let it go...this too shall pass.

I can marvel at every little stage she reaches, knowing that each milestone is not something to be checked off, but a gift. I am better able to keep that sense of wonder.

Best of all, as a "geriatric mom," I'm learning to be present. As someone who usually has half my mind rehashing the past and the other half planning the future, this hasn't come naturally. But when I see Chloe exploring a toy, or I hear her babbling voice in the morning, suddenly, it's easier. This will fly by in an instant, a voice says. Remember this. And so, for a bit longer, I linger right where I am.

There are days already when I'm doing something at Ethan's school and I'll see another parent or two who look impossibly young. They can't be more than 25, I'll think, and have to stop myself before I become one of those people who used to look down their noses at my parents. Those moments reflect insecurity on my part. But now I know: there are true benefits to being an older parent. I'm thankful for the lessons that only now, at this stage, I am able to learn.

1 comment:

truthinlove said...

Great job! I, too, am a geriatric mom. I am 41 with a preschooler. (: I love it. I enjoy him so much and he helps me slow down for the others. I don't always do it right, but I do less things wrong now--I think. Ha ha