When you are 8 and supposedly have the “oldest parents in the third grade,” you argue that at 16 you won’t have to share a car with your sibling like your parents did with their siblings because, well, your parents are old enough that they will be in a nursing home by the time you get your driver’s license. Hmmm.
When you are ONLY 45 and 49 and this is your child, you wonder what your long term care might look like one day. You wonder perhaps nursing home care insurance probably should be both in the long and short term. You wonder if she really thinks you are that old or if she doesn’t know how to make meaning yet from her friends who say, “Well, my mom is only 28, or 30, or 35.”
“Honey,” I tell her, “you don’t understand yet how badly we wanted you, and how long we had to wait for you and your brother to join our family. If I had you when I was 20, you would not have been you. Your mommy would also not be the same mommy. She would not have had the years of being just her without other people to keep alive. She maybe would not have had the chance to finish college, which she loved fiercely. She would not have become a teacher so easily and spent her first year of true independence in her first apartment in the same city our nation’s independence was forged. She would not have met so many amazing friends from different places. She would not have dated the amount of boys and men she needed to date until she found your daddy. She learned to be a grown up by herself, without having to take care of anyone else. She took road trips and read books– many, many, many books. She had roommates; she lived alone; she paid bills and saved money; she moved around, trying on different towns for size, until she found this one, the one that felt just right– just like Goldilocks tested out soups, chairs and beds. She didn’t travel as much as she would have liked to, but she sure did a lot before she met your dad. She lived a pretty full and fabulous life AND THEN she got to have this awesome family.”
Your dad wants me to remind you that he is almost 50 and a professional, sponsored athlete and not even close to being all washed up. And to be clear, I try to explain to you with your 8 year old brain, your parents are not ancient. While we may, in fact, actually be the oldest parents in the 3rd grade, you aren’t so old yet that we’ve been completely embarrassing in public. Yet. You both still let me give kisses and squeezes in the school parking lot before we part ways each morning, you to your building, me to mine. You aren’t so old yet that you like sleeping over friends’ houses more than your own. You know how excited I am over the writing you do in your class, especially when you say, “Guess what, Mom, we wrote two paragraphs today,” or “Mom, do you want to see all that I have created in my documents?” You leave messages for my big kids on the chalk board which often involve a math equation or directions for a feeling tally as pictured above. Maybe you will be a teacher. Maybe you will run a company. I can’t even imagine all that will be your life when you are as old as me.
Not for anything, if I do end up in a nursing home before my time, I hope I will have lived outside in the world long enough to see you and your brother find your dream jobs, travel to other countries, explore boyfriends and girlfriends, live on your own in apartments and with roommates, housemates, soulmates, find a place that fits just right. And then, maybe then you will build a family. Or not. The choice is always yours. You don’t have to become a parent before you really want a baby. We have already started to have some of those conversations because you ask a lot of questions. But because I’m old– and because teenagers fill my days, I understand full well that you might not always want to ask me these questions. Until then, I’ll make sure you and your brother know what you need to know about birth control, healthy friendships and relationships, decisions, etc. We make mistakes as parents, but we’ve tried our best to teach you about choices. There are always choices, and one day you will make them solo. Until then, we are here to help– until you send us to the nursing home of your choice.