I became a mother young in life. Not a teen or anything, but younger than many these days. I come from a long line of women who waited to have kids. My grandmother who was born in 1907 was over 30 when she had her first child. My mother got me when she was 30. Both of them had careers and lives and then added children to the mix. I chose to have the child and build my career simutinously. And I have never regretted that choice. I suppose it is the harder way to do things, but neither my grandmother or mother had it easy either.
Now, when my first child started pre-school, I was the youngest mom. But, I was totally accepted and always felt like a part of the clique. For the other moms, this was their youngest going to school, for me it was my oldest. There were a couple of moms who had been the young mom with their first, and now of course, as happens when we age, they were no longer the young mom, I was.
When my oldest started kindergarten, I was shocked that her teacher was younger than me by a year or two. Teachers were always old. How could this be? This meant the people I had graduated high school with were now the grown ups. That meant that I was now officially the grown up, the parent. I knew I was the parent prior to this revelation. No one goes through 13 hours of hard labor then pushes out a nine pound baby and forgets they are the parent. But this was the next level of parenting. And I was still so young. Growing up along with my child.
I think we all grow up with our child no matter the age we were when we came to be parents. I remember looking forward to turning 30 so that I would be a legitimate parent like my parents were. But being older and more established did not insulate my parents from life. They divorced, they experienced all the hard things that go along with raising a child. I was a “challenging” child and a holy horror as a teen. It didn’t matter that my parents were well loved, respected members of our community. I didn’t give a flying fig about them when I was a teen. So, why then do I think that my 15 year old is supposed to give a flying fig about me and my life? Why do I think that just because I am closer to her in age than my mother was to me that she and I share this special connection? Cause we don’t.
I swear sometimes I still feel like I am 15 myself. I know exactly how and why she lies. I just choose to not call her out on it every single time I catch her. Part of parenting is denile. If we never denied what we know, if we punished our kids for every single thing we know they are doing wrong, the kids would never leave their room. I have to let some things go. I have to pick my battles and pray that the universe takes care of the infractions I choose to over look.
Now, picking my battles was so much easier when she was 2. Don’t argue with a 2 year old about what clothes she wants to wear no matter that they don’t match or are too big. Just don’t argue. Work with it. Layers usually forgive all fashion choices. But yes, she has to use the potty and cannot just pee in the corner if she feels like. No she cannot stay up all night. Yes she can pick out the special toy she wants to bring to show and tell. See? Simple.
Today, it is about boys and clothes rather than potty training and clothes. And some days I am totally lost. And I know it has not a thing to do with my age. It is all about her age. I know this because I am still friends with the ladies who knew me as the young mom and despite the fact that they are 15 years older than me, they are just as confounded by their teens. We are still sharing the same experiences despite the difference in our age. Teenager-ness is universal, like the plague and natural disasters. No parent is immune to it and there is currently no vaccination or escape plan. We just have to hunker down and try to survive.
I always knew I wanted children. I knew as I was traveling as a teen and very young adult that I was collecting these experiences to share with my future children. And I do. And I was always of the philosophy of Have Child Will Travel. I brought my oldest everywhere with me. She went to her first off broadway musical (Lust…how inappropraite) when she was 6 months old.All the old ladies were so impressed with how quiet she was for being so young. My children went to very fancy restaurants and to work with me, they went to grown up parties and meetings, operas and master classes and major rock concerts. That isn’t to say that we always did grown up things. We have made the trip to Mecca (Disney World) twice and we will again I am sure. And we hit every kid movie that comes out and they do all the after school activities that other kids do. But my world is a balance of kid stuff/adult stuff and that is just the way it is.
My parents did lots of grown up things but I was usually allowed to go to my grandparents house because grown up stuff is BOOOORRRING. And my grandparents were in their 70’s and retired. With my kids, my parents were still working. They still had a schedule and a life. So, it is totally different for me. Because I was younger having my kids, my parents were younger grandparents and that is very different. Also my parents were divorced which also threw a kink in the traditional extended family. My grandparents were married for over 50 years. They were always available to pick me up, babysit, make dinner, and keep me overnight. With my parents I had to schedule consult with them as far as babysitting.
I had my last baby when I was 30. I do not feel that my age has made me a better mother to her than I was to my eldest. I am a more experienced mother, a wiser mother, but that is just the way it goes. Now I am the average mom when I go to my youngest child’s school functions. And the older moms who’s oldest is in my youngest’s class are saying and doing the same things I was when I was a first time mother. Ofcourse, I was 28 at the time and they are 48,but our age makes no difference in our love for our child.
When we decide to bring a child into our lives, when we decide to become a parent, we decide exactly how we are going to raise this child. We decide how our child will be. We determine what kind of child we will have, if they will be sporty or arty or studious. We decide exactly how and for what we will meter out punishments. If we will spank or use time outs, if we will breast feed or bottle feed, cloth or disposable, Ferber or Sears, if our parents way was the right way or the wrong way. And that is all before we actually become parents. And then it happens and we try to stick to what we had decided. But we can’t because there is now an anomaly thrown in which skews all of our well laid plans. And we realize that it doesn’t matter if we are young or old, if we give birth or adopt, if we have a family bed or let them cry it out. None of it matters at all. Because life takes over and the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.
What unites us is far more powerful than what divides us. And I know if I sat down with the Rajo Devi Lohan, the Indian woman who gave birth to her first child at age 70, she and I would have much more in common than not. She would have the same fears, joys and expectations that I did. We are parents and our children, not our age, is what links us. I wonder if she would be interested in raising a 15 year old girl……