Monday, September 26, 2011

The Good Thing About Being 46

I had a birthday recently, complete with cards, presents, and lots of good wishes on Facebook.  My middle child was particularly kind to me that day, but the next morning was back to the same old pre-teen attitude.  As she explained to me "It's not your birthday anymore.  Now you're just 46."  (And to think she used to be my favorite.) 

Here I am, just 46.  Not old, except to anyone under 21 (okay, 30), but not exactly in my prime.  But maybe my prime came a little later than everyone else's--I always was a  late bloomer.  Maybe there's something magical that will happen at 46. 

At 46, I rarely have to worry about being asked for ID when buying alcohol.  And when I am, it makes for a really funny story.

I'm not 47.

Now that I'm 46, I no longer feel pressured to have the perfect body.  Let's face it, gravity is kind to no one.  If I totally let myself go, people will blame it on my middle age hormones.  If I keep my current weight, some may think I look pretty good for a middle-aged mom of three.

Everyone calls me ma'am (except for the greeters at Walmart) and while some may think this is the same as being called "old lady", I think it's kind of nice.  It beats "honey", "sweetheart" or "hey you" any day.

Forty-six is the age where I finally feel grown up, but not grown old.  I have a few laugh lines (some call them crow's feet, but I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of person) and a few saggy areas, but no bunions, gray hairs or desire to eat at Denny's at 4 in the afternoon.

I no longer need to worry about what I'm going to do with my life--I'm already doing it.  No need to wonder what I'm going to be when I grow up.  No need to impress people, worry if that boy would date me, or if I'll ever have kids.  The answers are: don't care; yes, and marry me, too; and yes, much to my delight and chagrin, depending on what kind of day I'm having.

I am the same age as my brother for one week and then he becomes my older brother again, if only by 51 weeks. (But you can be honest, he looks much older, doesn't he?)

When I turned 45, I considered that my half way point.  The average age of my grandparents when they passed away was 90, so 45 was the top of the hill.  Now that I'm 46 I'm just looking over the rise and getting a peak at what's coming.  Looks pretty good so far.  And it's all downhill.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What They Don't Tell You

Expectant parents are the target for conflicting (and sometimes bizarre) advice.  Put the baby to sleep on its back/stomach, don't give babies cows milk/soda, never leave children unattended in pet stores. With all the labor and delivery classes, well meaning friends/family, and the plethora of books it's hard to know who to listen to.  While I am no parenting expert, there are a few topics that I have noticed woefully neglected amid all this.

Most pregnancy books tell you about the different stages of pregnancy and what is going on inside your body.  What they don't tell you is your body is no longer your own--it has been taken over by a cute little parasite who doesn't care if you have no clothes that fit you anymore or if you can see your feet to tie your shoes. Your midsection grows to the size of a basketball and it feels like your skin is stretched so tight it's going to explode.  Your boobs, formally for decorative purposes only, begin to dispense beverages.  Intellectually I knew these were natural occurrences--I'd read the books-- but I would not have been surprised to have the creature from Alien to pop out of me. 

They tell you the pain of delivery will be forgotten as soon as you hold your baby in your arms.  Ha!  They were still stitching up the tear in my private lady area as I held my newborn, so there was little chance of that.  Labor for me felt like having a Mac truck drive through my body...slowly.  Then it'd go in reverse... inch forward for a while. Next it parked on my tailbone.  That is a pain I will never forget.  Which is not to say it wasn't well worth it, but it hurt like a son of a b***h.

They tell you that you'll learn to decipher your baby's cries and know what your newborn needs.  This is an old wives' tale, in my opinion, and old wives are not to be trusted.  My babies' cries went from a whimper (Bored? Can't find my thumb?) to a wail (Hungry?  You're the worst mother in the world?) to a shriek (You just stuck me with a diaper pin!  Someone call CPS!).  Mostly you just start at the easiest things to fix, food and diaper, and work your way up to the bouncing and walking.  Endlessly.  While said baby screams in your ear for no intelligible reason.  Endlessly.  Until your hearing is so damaged that you couldn't tell a "Please burp me" cry from a "Why can't I control my arms" cry.

They tell you that toddlers will assert their independence by saying no.  What they don't tell you is any practical way of getting them to do what you want, short of sitting on them.  And that brings on the "someone call CPS cry" and I tell you, toddlers are masters of the persecuted and abused routine.  What they should tell you is that how you handle toddler tantrums will come back and bite you in the butt when they're teenagers.  Bad behavior is cyclical.

They tell you that things will get easier when your kids get into grade school.  Sure they're potty trained now and speak in complete sentences when they demand things of you, but there's another aspect to consider.  Grade-schoolers have social lives.  They have friends (who inconveniently don't live nearby), and sports (little league practices are normally two hours long), and school field trips, and important projects they forgot at home and need you to bring to school, and school supplies they need for tomorrow...If they have siblings, you multiply this running around time by 6,789 (more or less).  You will be living in your car until they're sixteen.  And then they'll be living in your car and you'll be stuck at home without a ride.

They tell you that teenagers will assert their independence by saying no.  You can't make them do what you want by sitting on them anymore, however, because now they're bigger than you.  So now you just argue with them endlessly and hope to wear them down.  But you are too tired from driving everyone to practices and games and roller skating to outlast them.  Lucky for you they don't have their own car or their own job or their own house.  My most effective bargaining tool to date is to take away my teen's phone and threaten to text all the numbers in his speed dial, explaining to all his friends why he won't BRB. (LOL).  I think I actually heard him whimper.  (Translation: "You are the worst mother in the world and I will spend many years in therapy because of this.")

This is as far as I've gotten in the stages of parenting advice.  I'm looking forward to sharing how to deal with the kids moving out of the house and supporting themselves.  Of course, there may be a few things that may surprise me about that stage.  The house will be too quiet?  I'll start dressing the dogs up like babies?  I'll bug my kids about giving me grandchildren so much that they'll stop calling?  Perhaps I'll be just as clueless about this part as any other.  But I won't have anyone crying in my ear.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where I Was

Ten years ago today I had just had a baby and my mother had come to stay with us.  That morning the newborn was crying, my two-year-old needed breakfast and my oldest was waiting to leave for kindergarten.  It was a time of new beginnings.

Then the world suddenly turned on its axis and everything changed.

While my mom fed the two-year-old and I bounced the crying baby, I turned on the tv for my kindergartner to watch a cartoon before he left for school, but there were no kids shows on, just news.  In my new-baby-fog I couldn't quite figure out what was going on.  And then I caught the announcer saying the Pentagon was on fire while I watched the picture of a smoking building.  I called to my mom to tell her what I'd heard.  It still wasn't sinking in, but we watched in stunned silence as the story unfolded.

I don't remember getting my son to school that day, I don't remember if we continued watching the news as the baby cried or if we shut it off so the other kids wouldn't know what terrible thing had just happened.  I do remember feeling so confused.  How had this happened and what did it mean now?  I can only imagine that was how many felt as they watched their country, the most powerful in the world, so crippled by a handful of extremists from half way across the globe.  What now?

Today that newborn is a happy ten-year-old girl getting ready to play her first soccer game of the season.  The two-year-old is in her second year of middle school with an obsession for the Twilight series.  And my kindergartner towers over me and talks with a deep voice.  For them the world didn't come to an end that day.  None of their relatives were in that tower and nobody they knew fought in Afghanistan.  They sleep in their beds each night with no fear of the world being any different than when the went to bed.  Does this mean that we won the War on Terror?

For my family, the world is now a safe place to live and grow.  But what about those whose loved ones were taken from them that day?  What about those who sent fathers and mothers, daughters and sons to fight this War on Terror and never got them back?  Do they see this as a win?  Or do they wake up every morning wondering what awful thing is waiting for them?

To them I must say thank you.  Your world may never feel normal again, but you made it possible for my children to grow up in a country that strives to keep its citizens safe.  Thank you for giving this gift to my children.