When I imagined myself as a mom, it was always as a young mom of very small children. It is a pure shock to me that that stage has ended in many ways for me. I can’t really explain my utter lack of reality, except to say I like babies and wish my kids could be Peter Pan.
However, my oldest will be a TEENAGER on Saturday, and I feel like Alice when she went through the looking glass.
This whole middle-aged mom life thing is really weird to me.
A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with a friend from church. She’s about a decade older than I am, and somehow we started talking about birthdays and how hard it is for us to get older. I turned 40 last year and I’m still reeling from the shock of it. Everyone promised me that 40 was the new 30, but that is a lie. 40 is 40, THE END.
My friend didn’t make me feel any better about turning 50 one day. (But by the time I hit that decade, she’ll be 60, and still the world will spin on its axis. This truth is shocking to my very core.)
Which is ridiculous. We are both women of deep faith. We love Jesus. We love watching our kids grow up. Our latter is better. Heaven is our destiny. We love what God has brought us through, and all we have learned, and we don’t want to be young and lacking the wisdom that we’ve gleaned through the years.
And yet. There we were, in a diner, eating pancakes and enchiladas, comparing the elasticity of the skin on our hands.
Aging just goes to prove that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (And wrinkly and a maybe a little thin and crepey.)
However, one of the perks of my new, middle-aged status is that my kids are old enough to stay at home while I run to the grocery store, or workout at the gym, or run away from the madness for thirty minutes of peace at a coffee shop.
For a woman who homeschools her kids, this is a kind of glorious liberation I knew not of before now. I’m practically sixteen again, driving in my car BY MYSELF to Walgreens to pick up a bottle of Pantene and a bag of gummy bears. Since having my first baby thirteen years ago, I have been alone in my car exactly eleventeen-shmomething times. (I can only count these solo trips in mythical numbers, because being alone is the unicorn of early motherhood.)
Being alone is so rare, in fact, that I have become a real superfan of the single public bathroom in recent years. Any restaurant or shop with a bathroom with only one room and a lock on the door should be rated as a multi-star Michelin establishment. First of all, I love that these bathrooms give me an excuse to shut a door and lock it. This alone makes for an experience that is akin to a trip to the spa. I’m in a public place, and yet no one is shouting at me from under another stall or talking too many words in between flushes about the thing they want for their birthday in two Novembers.
I try to take my time and really squeeze the joy out of those blessed single person bathroom facilities. I let the water get really warm before I wash my hands like a surgeon about to operate. I reapply lipstick twice. Sometimes I take a minute (or ten) to do some anti-anxiety breathing exercises. I look for a mint in my purse because I can. I give myself a pep talk in the mirror, “Hey Girl, there will be shenanigans you will have to deal with when you get out of here. That’s okay. They are kids. They like to be dumb most of the time. Just smile and wait for your moment to unleash your amazing mom-ness. It always works out alright.” Then I go back and try to be a really great mom.
Thank you, very small local businesses with tiny lavatories, you really are the wind beneath my wings.
This new freedom to leave the kids at home for an hour or two during the day has caused a new reality to set in, though. Someday, I will no longer need any babysitters at all. Not for late night events. Not for overnight trips. Once these kids are all grown up, they will not need any supervision at all. Ever.
I can’t tell you how odd this fact is to me. For years now, many parts of my professional life, and my entire social life have hinged on my ability to get a babysitter. Babysitters aren’t unicorns, exactly, but they are close. I’d compare them to reverse leprechauns. Much like those little Irish fairies, babysitters are very hard to find, and the nice ones are even rarer. Leprechauns give you money though, and babysitters take all your money. (That’s the reverse part.)
I can’t imagine a world in which I don’t have to text three different people to find childcare just so I can go to a planning meeting or have dinner with my husband. I think this is because I haven’t really accepted that my children will actually grow up one day. I mean, I know I won’t be doing their laundry and packing a snack for them at the library twenty years from now, but it feels like I will have to do all this stuff for an eternity. In fact, it feels like I’ve been doing this mom life for an eternity already- folding laundry and doing dishes and picking up dirty underwear and carrying everything they don’t want to carry and listening to endless explanations about things that aren’t even important and pretending to care about new apps and fantasy football stats and American Girl Doll minutiae.
I’m so tired, you guys. But even this season won’t last forever.
Someday I’m going to go to my daughter’s fortieth birthday dinner and tell her that 40 is the new 20, what with that new infrabluish transformative light that makes all the wrinkles go away forever by changing your DNA. (The miracles of science astound in the year 2048!!)
I’ll be 72 by then, which is completely impossible.
Gosh, I wonder who I’ll text when I need a babysitter for that party? I hope she doesn’t charge too much….