Thursday, January 15, 2009

With All Thy Getting, Get Over Thyself

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 altruistic 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.


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Thank you! You've covered 80% of my mom angst. (I don't have paint issues... but crayons-on-top-of-paint issues, yes.)

Hel said...

Thanks Denae! I suffered from more than an identity crisis at 25, so I will warn everyone in my world in advance to expect a "full-core meltdown" on my 35th birthday.

Can you tell me if it's ok that I let Mickey Mouse educate my child? That is what keeps me up at night. Oh, the sleepless nights with Mickey Mouse dancing in my head....

Amber said...

Hel: Mi-Mow is briliant. Your little munchkin will be just fine!

Can we get back to your 21 year old joining the military, please? Um...WHAT???

He's such a good kid. Love him!

You and I must have the same mom. Because it's turning out mine was right about a lot...make that A LOT of stuff, too :)

Lara said...

Hmmm...I have tended to have my meltdowns at the "6" birthdays. Well, I did at 26, not 16. So maybe my 35th this year will be okay?

And darn it all, I've already learned that my mom was right about everything. Except, in her house, it really is a Class A Felony to leave a bed unmade. In mine? Not so much.

R Max said...

Glad I'm not the only one who has painted over their wedding picture.


ShannonS said...

I have never spent much time thinking about my age. I just have never had the time. That also is the case for thinking deep thoughts. I just never get around to deep thoughts like what I would do different. But forcing myself to come up with something, I think I would say that working out and keeping in shape should have played a more important part in my life. I used to think that service and making other people happy was the most important thing and since it made me happy, then that was fine. But I actually think that the church should have a commandment about 1 hour of exercise a day regardless of whether the kids are taken care of or the house is clean or the sunday school lesson prepared. I am now trying to really get in shape at 57 and it is not fun.

Christy said...

Your asked for age learned/earned wisdom, here is mine. If something does not directly effect MY life in the next 5 minutes, I DON'T CARE. That philosphy cuts down on needless worry and all forms of gossip.

Thanks for your permission to not scrapebook. I never found the joy. Although the result is that my 4 year old doesn't know that she was ever a baby.

Debi (Dubs2007) said...

thankyou! I needed to know that in 10 years the things that keep me up at night - will be ok..

Lisa Loo said...

I am doing the big 45 in a couple of weeks--as far as melt downs go I think I have worked myself up into the nuclear category.

Your wisdom is great and after I finish rolling on the floor I will be your grasshopper o wise one.

Will you still like me if I like books that start with the word scrap?!

DeNae said...

Lisa, of course I will still like you if you like to scrapbook! Do you think Nephi's ward members ever said, "Sheesh, all that guy does is write on those plates. That's just not really my thing..."

You scrapbookers might very well be the last people on earth still committing anything to paper!

Which means future generations will read your books and teach one another in Sunday School that the people of our day communicated entirely by stick-on word bubbles. Oh, well...

R Max said...

Wow, I just read your comment on "Mostly Harmless" and you earn the award for being the first frood to read that blog. I was about to give up and go read some Vogon poetry because I despaired of finding anybody else with a brain the size of a planet. The improbability factor is like 2 to the power of 30 million. said...

Phew. I was starting to think I was the oldest blogger in the blogosphere. (Only I would never admit to it.) I'm so glad I found your blog.

And I agree with all your eternal truths. Except for that bit about my kids not being as cute as I think they are.

DeNae said...

Those of you who did not understand anything R Max said in her last comment (like most of my relatives) should know, she made perfect sense to me. Trust me when I say, it's a darn good thing she didn't read that Vogon poetry.

wendy said...

So when's the BIG day --HAPPY BIRTHDAY. 45 --I hear you about the age thing. I will be 58 this year --I HAVE ONLY 2 YEARS until (I can't even say it, can't even think it ....60) I will PANIC for sure. It will probably cause a heart attack in and of itself. But, like every other "next" 5 years, we survive and say, "hey, I'm still damn Hot". Right?? I love all your advice and it is soooo true. I so just "let things go" now (like my waist line, but that one wasn't intended) I relax and enjoy life so much more. And---what do you mean no "Saguaro Sunrise"--I was about to go to Home Depot and look that one up. Sounds so, alluring. Maybe you should start your own paint line.

Amber said...

OK, so even though I'm not 45 or 40...anything I have a "I shoulda/woulda".
I really should have gone to college. I really, really regret it now.

If only someone would have hounded me CONSTANTLY about it. Mayve I'd have gone.

Probably not, though.
I'm glad you cleared up that "R Max" situation. What the heck are you guys talking about? English, please!!!

DeNae said...

Sheesh, Amber, we ARE speaking English. It's all pretty self-explanatory: I'm a 'frood' because I always know where my towel is. Vogon poetry is so unspeakably bad it is used as a method of torture, like middle school orchestras playing "Sleigh Ride". I don't really have a brain the size of a planet, but that's OK because most folks who do are also emotionally unstable, and are, technically, not human. And if you plugged that improbability factor into a really hot cup of tea, well, fasten your seatbelt, it's gonna be a ZIPPY ride.

I hope that clears things up, little sister.

(And I apologize for not nagging you both DAY and NIGHT and in your sleep and by smoke signal and by telepathy to go to college. My bad...)

Casey said...

I must be wise beyond my years since I figured out the "brownies for breakfast" conundrum years ago. I had a hard time with 25 as well, not sure what it was about that age.
Happy birthday. Is it your actually birthday or just sometime this year?

DeNae said...

My birthday isn't until June; I'm in the pre-freak stages right now. I advise any of you within the sound of my blog to stay away from Las Vegas for the last couple of weeks of June. I can't be responsible for what I may do when that day finally hits. My husband is in charge of investigating and prosecuting any WMD attacks in Vegas, so I'll probably avoid nuclear or bio-chemical weaponry. Other than that, the field is wide open.

You've all been warned...

brudcrew said...

I'm only a 30 - something... but one thing I've learned from living in many different places is that people will surprise you. You never really know EVERYTHING about a person. Do not underestimate even the most timid of people.
I have to say, I love the didgeridoo and I still haven't managed to squelch the guilty voice harping about my kids scrapbooks. I guess I have a few more years to reach your pinnacle!

Elise said...

My then 15 - now 18 - year old daughter asked me "what would your 15 year old self thought about you now? Hmmm. Interesting question. The first thing I thought of was my hair - I would have been profoundly relieved that I didn't have to go to the beauty shop once a week to get it done, and sleeping on a little bean pillow to keep it looking lovely.

About birthdays, I get hit in the stomach on the 3's and 8's. Thirty eight rounds up to 40 - 37 rounds down to 35, etc. So when I turn something-8, in my mind I jump from say, 35 to 40, on that birthday. So when I hit 45 this year (we do these things together) it was no big deal, I dealt with that a couple of years ago.

DeNae said...

Elise and I are living parallel lives. Tonight I asked her to sing me the address to "Zoom". Without hesitating, she sang the whole thing, including "Boston, Mass, OH--two-one---three-four----SEND IT TO ZOOM!"

Anyone else know what we 45ers are talking about?

Amber said...

Look how cute your picture is!! YAY!! Now I can put a face to the hilarity!

shopgirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shopgirl said...

Just found your blog from
Ambers blog who found me - Anyhoodle - your blog is great! I have to admit - being in my mid thirties - I agree with many of your "truths" as well- it's amazing what I worried about in my 20's that I JUST DON"T care about in my thirties. The next decade sounds even better!

Sher said...

I bow to your infinite wisdom! I don't remember much about 25, except that it was only 5 years ago, and that I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy that year. I turned 30 last year. It was weird, and I freaked, only a little bit, but I survived.

p.s. Happy Birthday. You are beautiful!!

Christy said...

I have realized another TRUTH!!! The MACARENA will NEVER die!

Becca said...

Ahhhhhhhh! This was my first time on your blog, and I LOVED this entry. You officially have a new lurker.

linds said...

Oh, this is awesome, I'm a year and a half from turning 30 and I'm FREAKING. OUT!! But I have to love the life lessons, except, you might be surprised to hear that,...I don't think my kids are that cute. Now before you gasp in surprise, of course I think they're cute, but that certainly doesn't put them above being pains in the butt, nor do I think they're cuter than my friends kids. They're smarter though, for sure...