Monday, October 24, 2011

parenting after 40 is not for the weak

I became a first time mom at the age of 38. My second child joined the family when I was 41. I'll be 42 in five months, and most of the time I don't feel like a woman in her 40's. Maybe it's the sitting on the floor playing with matchbox cars keeping me young. Maybe it's the endless games of football in the backyard with my big four and a half year old. Maybe it's the constant climbing up and the down the stairs, lugging laundry from the second floor to the basement and back. Maybe it's the hourly chases of the tiny toddler to retrieve whatever he just stole - a pen, a breakable mug, his brother's stuffed dog. Which, actually, is my stuffed dog, but the four year old  fights over it like he brought it home from the war. Yes, I have many reasons to feel young. And I usually do. Until the end of the day when I collapse on the sofa and really feel my age. But it's then that I truly appreciate my age and what it has taught me about parenting.

OK, so being a first time mom in my late thirties means maybe I don't have the energy of a twenty five year old. That's fine with me, because I have the wisdom to survive this thing called parenthood.

While my husband might disagree, I don't sweat the small stuff. Occasionally I do totally freak out when every single toy is on the living room floor or every item of food in our kitchen is out on the counter instead of in the fridge. But the boys dragging grass inside on their shoes after playing in the backyard or shooting toothpaste on the bathroom mirror instead of onto the toothbrush doesn't bother me. I am old enough to have perfected my cleaning and organizing routine so the mess is usually contained and I am confident enough to still welcome a friend into my not always perfect home.

I had my years of living in the perfect home. My Pottery Barn, eclectic and fun styled home was perfect for me. We took our time painting and decorating, keeping to both our style and our budget. I remember the days before the kitchen cabinets were an art gallery and the coffee table was a parking garage. And I like the view so much better now.

I was twenty nine when I met my husband and thirty two when we got married. I knew who I was before we met, and we knew who we were as  couple before we brought a child into our life. That "stuff" that every couple goes through during the early years of marriage had already been dealt with. Our relationship is strong and had already weathered infertility, aging parents, miscarriages, money issues, job crises. Letting go of each other's hands to grab onto a child's didn't mean we took our eyes off each other. I think if we had been in our twenties we would have really struggled with the huge time suck called children.

My age guaranteed that my career was stable. While the working mother always performs a delicate ballet between the office and the babies and while a stable career certainly doesn't mean less demanding, at least I was comfortable enough with my position to be able to focus on the matter at hand; the new baby sitting on my lap being flown halfway around the world to his new home.

Of the small group of friendships I wandered out of college clinging to I was the last to start  family. I watched my friend's with their babies and toddlers. I watch them now with their teenagers. Not only are my friends a wealth of "been there, done that" information, but our relationships are the kind of strong that only comes from years of friendship. Had our boys come along earlier into these friendships I can't say they would be as strong as they are today.

As a 41 year old married woman my "community" is much larger than when I was younger. I am not parenting in a vacuum. I have my above mentioned college friends, who I rely on heavily and love so much. But the years have also collected work friends, church friends, day care friends. Each year the web of community gets a little wider and I find that I have more and more seasoned mommy professionals to help, or at least to commiserate with. Hillary Clinton was right - if you want to do it right, it takes a village to get it done.

I'm old enough to not care about looking silly. I can car dance. I know all the words to The Hairbrush Song. I can stare down the older woman in front of me in the checkout line who so obviously thinks my boys are misbehaving while simultaneously rocking the two year old on my hip, singing a dreadful  wonderfully upbeat song from The Fresh Beat Band, googling monster truck videos on my blackberry, and unloading the groceries. A younger version of me surely couldn't pull all of this off.

And I'm old enough to stand strong in the face of adoption stupidity. 'Nuff said.

I'm stronger at this age. I know what I want. I am comfortable with who I am and don't need to look for recognition or affirmation elsewhere. I've got this.

Which is a good thing, because I am making what feels like more than my fair share of mistakes. At least once a day I catch myself having a one sided conversation about behavior, consequences, nutrition...  Not to mention the adoption related questions and guilt. My near constant "is this adoption related or just growing pains?" questioning would have driven me mad at a younger, less confident age.

So I can play a mean football game against a four year old while running a play that does not involve knocking down the two year old wandering around the field. But only in my own, small backyard.

I can sit on the floor and play monster trucks or build a killer train track. But if we're going to wrestle we have to move the fun to the bed. Maybe I take a few more Tylenols than I used to. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to have these boys in my life right now. Not ten years ago, but right now. It's all good. I've got this. And during those moments when I don't have it, it doesn't matter. I'm old. I'm just too tired to care.

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