I turn 45 this year, and it has me a little wigged out. See, I don't do the "5's" very well. Had a little identity crisis at 25, came a bit closer to full-core meltdown at 35, fully expect to lose my fragile grip on reality and join a circus or learn to play the didgeridoo or start a fake global eco-panic at 45. ("Studies show that hybrid cars cause cancer in baby dolphins! Someone defrost Al Gore!" *tee hee*)
So the conversation I had with my 21 year-old son last night was good for me.
I finally had to ask why someone like him - who is so pathologically averse to conflict he makes Gandhi look like a cage fighter - would choose a career in the military followed by a run at public office.
His response was that he believed doing so would help him deal with a few of his more worrisome social hang-ups, like not appreciating it when someone aims a rocket launcher at your dining room.
I assured him that all of us have things about ourselves we would change if we could, and that experience and time usually neutralize the worst of life's demons, if for no other reason than, by middle age, you're just too dang tired to worry if people perceive you as being obnoxious, overbearing, opinionated, snotty, condescending....erm, I mean....uh....inaccessible.
You aren't obligated to take the rockiest, most uphill path to self-improvement. But that's my kid, Mr. "Moderation in Moderation".
But back to my birthday.
My 40th birthday was the best day, the best year, the best party ever. While it was the year I got both braces and bifocals - and that's gotta mean something - it was also the year when I realized that I had more than my stunning good looks and magnetic charm to bring to the proverbial table. I had been around the block a couple dozen times, and that turnip truck I may seem to have tumbled off of in my 20's was long gone by these, my 40's.
I discovered that I had at least as many answers as I still had questions. People were listening to me, and not just because my foghorn voice could out-holler everyone else in the room. I knew things, things that mattered, like how many cases of Pop Tarts a family of six should have in their 72-hour kits. (The answer is 'nine'.) And contrary to every prophecy uttered by my beleaguered 10th grade Algebra teacher, I actually had something to say that wouldn't precipitate a parent-teacher conference.
Not only that, I no longer felt the need to toll paint anything that couldn't flee for its life, scrapbook my kids' athletic supporters, or stencil quotes from "The Iliad" over my bathroom mirror.
I stopped feeling guilty for spending a couple of mid-day hours reading a junk novel. And I was so OVER feeling bad when my youngest went off to first grade, leaving me with 360 uninterrupted minutes to take a breath, complete a thought, and polish off the last of the chocolate chips.
In so many, many ways, I had arrived. Two decades of grown-up-ed-ness had left their mark, in experience, learning, and waistbands. And now, this year, I mark five more years of all of the above, still in there swinging, still in there parenting, still in there eating brownie batter straight out of the bowl.
So being the philanthropic gal I am, I thought I would share with you young moms a few of the Eternal Truths that have distilled on my not-quite-elderly soul over the last 25 years. Some of it is pretty life changing - like the revelation that salmonella is on the OUTSIDE of eggs, so as long as you don't grind the shells into the mix, eating that brownie dough is fine. Hear that, wives' tales mongers?? Brownie batter is OFF the watch list!
Anyway, feel free to take notes, but you should be warned: Eternal truths aren't always pretty, starting with...
Eternal Truth #1: Your kids aren't as cute as you think they are.
I know. I was as surprised as you are. It turns out that every parent is blessed / cursed with what I call "The Big Fat Hairy Blindspot" when it comes to their own children. It's great. It's necessary. And it keeps you from going WMD when you're changing your eleventh set of sheets and 'big boy underoos' that night. But I gotta tell you, by the time your four-year old is on his 500th lap around the chapel, every dewy-eyed granny in the place is fantasizing about sticking her arm into the aisle and clotheslining him into submission.
Eternal Truth #2: Never paint a wall you can't see.
Think I'm kidding? Here's how this happens: You've painted clear to the end of the wall. But you still have a healthy slug of paint on the roller. Not wanting to climb down the ladder, put down the roller, move the ladder, pick up the roller, and climb back UP the ladder, you convince yourself that you can just "use up the last of this paint" by reaching around the corner and painting a wall that is perpendicular to your line of sight. However, for reasons I can't fully explain, when you finally descend that ladder and inspect your handiwork, you will discover to your - let's call it 'dismay' - that you have painted over your wedding picture. This will happen no matter where your wedding picture is displayed. It could be hanging in the Louvre. But it will be covered in a half-inch layer of "Saguaro Sunrise" and drying fast.
Eternal Truth #3: No one is impressed by "Perfect Attendance" awards.
If your child is sick, for crying out loud keep him home. Otherwise, don't be surprised when I show up with MY kid, so be-snotted he looks like something out of "Night of the Living Glazed Doughnuts", and invite him to kiss you full on the mouth.
Eternal Truth #4: There is no such thing as a paint color called "Saguaro Sunrise".
I made it up.
Eternal Truth #5: Your own mother was right about pretty much everything you thought she was wrong about. And she was right about most of the rest of it, too.
Washing reds with whites is every bit the bad idea she told you it was. Marrying a guy whose first wife slept with a knife under her pillow because 'SHE' was a psycho will have you shopping for cutlery inside a month, despite how affronted you were when your mom called that decision "questionable". On the other hand, it is not, in fact, a Class A Felony to leave your bed unmade. I checked.
Eternal Truth #6: It's OK to eat brownies for breakfast.
It is not OK, however, to then blame your Norwegian ancestors for the fact that your rear end can be seen from space.
And finally, Eternal Truth #7: Nearly everything keeping you up nights at 25 is just not that big a deal at 45.
Most kids turn out just fine, even if you didn't hand-puree their baby food or teach them Esperanto in the womb. Clutter isn't fatal, but I advise against leaving Lego's in the middle of a dark floor. You can wear the same skirt to church two weeks in a row. The "books" from which God judges His children do not have the word "scrap" in their name. Being 'right' all the time doesn't make you a winner, it makes you a drag. It really does help to smile occasionally. Discover the magic in "thank you". Forgive more freely. Let things go....
....and this June, don't believe anything you hear about dolphins.