No matter what you think about it, more women are having children at an older age, and are therefore becoming an “older mom.”
I myself became “mom” when I was 39 years, 7 months and 11 days old, barely clutching the edges of my fourth decade of life. When I turned 40, I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t have time to ponder reaching midlife.
I would’ve been a horrible mom in my 20’s. Not only because I had chosen men to marry that already had children that they either ignored, or badly parented. I was creating such an emotional mess that someone depending on me, I’m afraid, would’ve been disastrous. It might have made me grow up, but I’d hate to have taken that chance.
So here I am, 22 years, 4 months, and 11 days later, looking back on how being a more seasoned person affected my parenting. What was I able to figure out due to my actual number of years on this earth?
1) When, as an infant, I mistakenly gave him face cleanser instead of cough medicine, I didn’t turn myself into Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy Anonymous. After all, he slept well.
2) That time at two, his teacher raved that I must be the best mom in the whole world, because my child was such a dream, I knew that one day, another teacher would pull me aside, and inform me, “We have a bit of a problem.” Neither made me a good mom, or a bad mom. My focus was on him.
3) When, in kindergarten, my child wrote that the best thing about his mom was that she let him stay up til 10:00 to watch Star Trek, I didn’t rip his poster off the wall. I was tempted to have one of those, “private versus public” talks, but really… it was Star Trek.
4) Because I was told by his therapist that I wasn’t being playful enough, and in a hugely over-reactive, shameful, “How could I ever think I was a good mom?” moment, I found myself in my garbage can, pretending I was Sesame Street’s Oscar? I realized I’d gone overboard.
5) When we threw a birthday party, and almost everyone missed the fire truck and the fire dog because they were coming fashionably late, I smiled and served refreshments. What mattered had been the look in his eyes. And that was it.
6) That time when suddenly from the back seat of my car, his pubescent best friend popped this question, “Mrs. Rutherford, is masturbation wrong?” I didn’t lose my cool. I pulled over, and answered… carefully.
7) As I watched him struggle with self-esteem as a teenager, I loved. And I waited.
8) That time I had biting ants running up my legs while searching for an errant golf ball during a tournament he was playing in, I looked up to heaven, and thanked my dad for giving him a good golf swing. And wished I’d brought bug spray.
9) When we were in the car, driving him to college, and he informed us what he and his friends had really been up to that summer, I remembered all the things unspoken in my own childhood, and smiled.
10) As we drove away from Vanderbilt, leaving him with his freshman friends, days after he’d had lung surgery and wasn’t supposed to lift anything more than five pounds, I swallowed very hard, and trusted. Independence was an important gift. And he’d sworn he would text.
11) And now, when he’s thousands of miles away, carving out a life for himself, I wonder where his life will lead him. So I make myself go on one more walk so, hopefully, I’ll be around to see it.
I knew to wait. Knew to trust. And I knew to smile.
Because I knew what really mattered.
I’ll continue to relish what is.
And keep walking… avoiding ants if I can.
You can now hear more of Dr. Margaret on her new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford!