Does Age Play A Role in Parenthood?
Parents are older today than ever and I ponder my role as a forty one year old mother of a two year old. My other children came along when we were in our early thirties and my age crossed my mind less back then than it does now. If anything, I like to think that being a bit older makes me a better mother, at least that is what I tell myself. My husband and I spend an inordinate amount of time with our children as our days of bar hopping are long gone. We both coach sports teams, leisurely read books, take family walks or play cards in the evenings and our maturity has certainly made us appreciate our four little people. I won’t deny I am tired though it is impossible to know if my age is to blame or the large number of clambering bodies shrieking each morning and afternoon, laughter, tears, hostility, fury and pure joy are just a handful of the emotions that flood in and out of our chaotic house, like the tide on a full moon.
We recently celebrated my father in law’s eightieth birthday and to me, eighty seems a long ways away. However, my husband and I will be turning 80 soon after Amos turns 40 and so, we get a glimpse of our future and can ponder what our future may look like and the choices we make. Truthfully, it seems not so old when I think of Grandpa and the man who hastens to attend basketball and soccer games and jubilantly cheers on his grandchildren athletes and espouses their gifted prowess, a little biased I think. Gran Janie is quick to take on cooking activities that involve real flour, take people golfing, teach card games, or play Badminton and Ping Pong, the sets for those games awaiting the next visit of my children.
My own parents are considerably younger and though they adore us, they have a whole life that doesn’t revolve around us. We tend to see them less often and in a diluted way. We will go and spend two weeks with them a few times a year in Florida. In the summer, we camp out at their beach place and they are there as well, a co-existence that likely leaves them tired. I think we are heavy in their thoughts and the center of their anxious worry, but our life doesn’t beckon them the way I would hope. I wish they would spend more time in our lovely small town and establish a life nearby but that is not their wish. Rarely do they see a ball game and not because they are too lazy or ambivalent but spending the winter in Florida makes the trip too long, the distance too far. It is their choice to be there of course and yet, I crave their presence. Or maybe I just want them to want to be with us and vie for the time we may offer during or after our children’s events. Our life though, not theirs.
I am left thinking about my own future and the past that shapes our decisions. My mother was just 38 when my my brother graduated from high school and 40 when his short life ended. When she was my age, she was mourning her son and her daughter was in the tenth grade and away at boarding school. I consider that while my own mothering is just heating up, hers was rapidly dissipating at the same age. I am left to think that she and my dad have been on their own for quite a while now and the life they share now was born when they were young and pondering their empty nest. One of their birds would never come home again and I am left pensive, thinking that they moved on, perhaps to secure their own survival. If they were to cling too tightly to me, their remaining child, their hearts may break and never heal.
I will be nearly fifty when my oldest son heads off to college and close to sixty when Amos turns the same age. Amos is my unknown though my story has hopefully illustrated that life is always an unknown and truly the happenings of tomorrow are beyond our reach and view. I like to think that we will send Amos off into the world and I may become a grandparent in my mid- sixties. By then I am sure to crave little people again and my own future will be staring me in the eyes. There will be no chance for building a new life, my husband and I will not be two young parents with flown children. No, our years for independence and freedom happened earlier and I enjoyed them. My adventuresome spirit fulfilled in my twenties when my parents were raising children and so, my path was not near the same.
Who knows what our future holds and though I like to think of how I may be as a grandmother, I don’t really know? The divide is so wide and far away, I will rest and be thankful for today and the two sets of grandparents that my children love and adore. Though they love them in different ways, isn’t that better? I think we do our best and our past plays a role in the decisions we make and maybe age too, though I think more the experiences of the heart shape the way we offer little people our adoration.