On a recent Saturday morning, well before I would have preferred to be awake, I was transporting my favorite male child to one of a bevy of his weekly activities. As we pulled into the parking lot, he asked, “Mom, what makes you feel the most old?”
This is a loaded question. First of all, it assumes that not only am I old, but that I feel old, as well. Secondly, it additionally presumes that there is more then one factor that contributes to the feelings of oldness.
I felt it was important that I relay this, “Well actually, I don’t think I’m old.”
“Oh, that’s good!”
He tried to backpedal at this point. “Because you don’t look that old.”
Again, the assumption is that I do, in fact, look old. Just not THAT old. By then, I had stopped the car and he took that opportunity to run inside, quickly ending the conversation before he could stick his foot any further into his mouth.
By now, I was really tossing the question around. I can’t completely fault the child for this line of thinking. I know that Brian and I often throw around the statement, “I’m getting old,” whenever we have a malady or ailment that is often associated with advanced years. Aching backs, creaky joints and having to hold the paper further and further away to see the writing, all remind me that I’m not quite as young as I once was.
And yet, when I think back to when my parents were the same age that I am now, I didn’t find them to be old at all. Well, not any more than most 10-year-olds find their parents to be old. I just kind of imagined them as parent-aged, a vague number somewhere between kid and grandparent. It didn’t really seem relevant to my life at the time. Maybe it’s because they never complained about age and they certainly weren’t slowing down. Though, 30 years later, they’re still not slowing down, so perhaps they weren’t the best barometer.
Or maybe instead, they were the perfect barometer. Maybe they’re the reason I don’t feel old. I mean, I can’t keep track of their social calendar to save my life. Actually, I think the Queen of England would have a hard time keeping track of their social calendar. And forget about their physical activities. Which morning is swimming? What’s the difference between Vinyasa yoga and pilates? How many hours at the gym does the winter, softball workout regiment take? I know 30-year-olds who may not live as long as those two.
I have to remember that at my son’s age of 13, the thought of one day being 40 is completely outside the realm of comprehension. As a matter of fact, he will often talk about being nine years old like it happened in another era, “Back when I was nine, I was so immature.” What a cad.
I try hard not to laugh out loud. Teenagers get super pissy if they think they’re being mocked. But seriously, in my skewed, mom world, he was nine like, last month. In his, it was nearly a third of his life ago. So, I suppose perspective is important.
But back to the question, what makes me feel the MOST old? After briefly reviewing my options, it became obvious. Next year, I will have a child in high school. Some of you may feel me on this. High school. The early years of my life are kind of a distant blur of birthdays and skinned knees, family parties and school buses.
But high school? I remember (pretty much) all of that.
I considered myself an adult. I thought I was so mature and smart and ready to rule the world. I had all the answers. I was optimistic and eager, wise and worldly.
In reality, I was just like every other teenager since the beginning of time; a complete moron who is lucky to have lived through those ridiculous and idiotic years, unscathed and with all my senses (minus a few brain cells.)
So within the next year or so, I will have one of these creatures. A willful and self-righteous being who will think he’s wise beyond his years. And there’s nothing I can do about it, except wait another 25 years until he hits middle age and realizes what an ass he was, too. Ah, the circle of life.
And when he’s spouting out some teenager-ism that is meant to convince me of his logic, I will feel old. When he starts pontificating on some issue or another, sure that his father and I have no idea what he’s going through, I will feel old. I will argue and debate, using logic, experience and time-earned wisdom. He will think I am archaic and foolish, and I will feel old.
I’ve started to see the changing of the tide. I’ve begun to see the eye-rolling, the exasperated stare, the incredulous head shake. But you know what? It’s way more fun on this side of the equation. I can almost write our script before a word passes through his lips. Been there, done that.
And though there are times I’d like to shake both of them (because the wee one has been an honorary teenager since the age of six) and say, “Why won’t you listen? What in the hell is wrong with you? Don’t you think I’m using some basis of knowledge for what I’m saying? Do you really believe I’m just trying to make your life miserable for the sheer joy of it?” I refrain because I know it’s useless.
They have to make their own mistakes (within reason) and I have to hope that we’ve provided them with enough problem-solving skills, knowledge and information to live through it without any permanent damage. They will test their limits and we will punish the offenses. They will feel furious and frustrated at our rules and we will empathize, but not give in. There will be broken hearts and broken dreams, and I will feel helpless and useless, but I will still hold them. I will promise that I will always love them. And I will mean it.
Together, we’ll stumble through the land mines of hormones and hysteria that dot the landscape of the teen years. We’ll live through catastrophes that ruin their lives and disappointments of epic proportions.
Then one day, we’ll get to the other side. One day, I’ll be trying to arrange my retirement social calendar and they’ll be wondering how they got to be 40 and what the hell does their kid mean asking them about being old?
Ah, the circle of life.
I’m actually looking forward to retirement. I’m not rushing it. I’m having a great time with this whole middle-aged thing. But retirement does sound kind of awesome. I think I should start planning my retirement activity, so I’m prepared. I’ve never been a good bowler and I feel like it’s too late in life to start roller derby. I hate yoga (I know, that’s very negative but it makes me want to punch something.) Slow paced isn’t really my thing. I’ve heard bocce is all the rage, but I don’t really get it. And though I keep hearing about pickleball, I can’t imagine playing that, if only because of its name.
Maybe I shouldn’t focus on retiring, just yet. Instead, maybe I’ll try Dr. Oz’s recipe for a Fountain of Youth Shake.
1 cup coconut water
2-3 wheatgrass ice cubes (juice, fresh wheatgrass and freeze)
2 handfuls of spinach
3 pineapple spears
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 small green apple
1 tbsp ginger
Pour all ingredients into a blender, blend to desired consistency, and enjoy!
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Tito’s recipe for a Fountain of Youth Cocktail.
1 1/2 oz vodka
3/4 oz St. Germain
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
2 sprigs of fresh mint leaves
2 oz Prosecco
In cocktail glass add vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice and the leaves from 1 mint sprig.
Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over crushed ice. Top with Prosecco.
Shake/cocktail, potato/potahto. Hey, whatever keeps you young. What’s your secret for eternal youth? I’d love to hear it.
Laurie Nigro, a mother of two, is passionate about her family, her community, and natural living. Laurie resides in downtown Riverhead and is co-founder of the River and Roots Community Garden on West Main Street.