Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adventures in Real Parenting: You May Find Yourself Living In A Shotgun Shack


Sophie likes to remind me that her birthday is coming up.  I think it's because with a birthday on January 7th, she's always worried that her special day will be lost in the downdraft of the holidays - Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years.  Come January 7th, it's true, we're suffering celebration fatigue and as a teacher's family living on that once-a-month paycheck that comes early in November and then again early in December, January is typically a month with little cash flow, sapped energy, the grumples due to a return to the routine after a long break and the general grayness that is January.

She's right to worry.

At the age of 12, I felt I knew the month of January, too.  In my journal, I wrote on January 14, 1978 "God, I hate this month.  It's like an entire month of Mondays.  I am ready for it to be February already.  No, actually, I'm ready for it to be June.  I'm sick of this cold weather and I'm sick of school."

What I wouldn't give to go back and tell that 12 year old kid to stop wishing her life away.  And to apply herself in school and listen to her instincts more. And to stop whining about the cold.  Just wait until she stood on a train platform in Rosemont, Illinois at 5:30a.m. with the temperature hovering around -4 Fahrenheit and a north wind spanking her ass with icy fingers.  That's when she'd know real cold.  Dog-sledding across the frozen tundra cold.  Fallen through the weak ice into the freezing water cold.  Watching the warm people in their cars drive by in a blur cold.  The damn it, I can't feel my fingers or my toes cold.

So last night my own soon-to-be-twelve-year-old reminded me that in January of 2012, she'd be thirteen.  "How does it feel to know that your last child will be a teenager in less than two years?" she chirped.  "Old?"

I looked at her across the room as she sat swiveling in my office chair.  My laptop and pile of books and I decided earlier in the day to not leave the bed.  "Actually no.  I don't feel old at all.  I feel quite young.  Like a kid," I answered truthfully.

"But?"  She didn't know where to go with this.  "I feel old sometimes," she blurted out.

"Really?  When?  And why?"

She spun around in the chair, a definite sign of rapid aging.  "Oh, you know.  When I think about how I'm done with elementary school already.  Or when I see kids who are in, like, the third grade and they seem so young."  She gave herself another spin.

"So in relation to other people you feel old?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"When I was your age, I thought I was pretty old, too.  I was even complaining about the cold like some grumpy old woman.  But you know what?  I had no idea how much of my life was ahead of me.  I had no clue that one day I'd be my age..."

"Forty-five," she cut me off to ensure my accuracy, the little tart.

"....right.  Forty-five.  I couldn't imagine being forty-five and having three kids and living in Georgia or that I'd be married to some guy from Chicago and all the rest of it."

"No one knows what their future will be."  Ah, wise words from the child with fingers still bearing smudges from oil pastels.

"Exactly right."

"So what's your point, Mother?"

"No point.  No point whatsoever.  But when you ask me if I feel old and I look at myself with my hair tumbling down my back and skinnier than I've been in years and, except for my sore neck and shoulder, not feeling any older than I did when I was your age, I realize that I still don't know what my future holds.  And the thing is, I can plan and I can work toward something, but I'm still not going to know.  So why not just live?"

"You're getting philosophical on me."

"I am."

She gave me the one-eyebrow raise, the look that says so much with just a few small movements of facial muscle.  "You know that hair tumbling down your back is silver, right?"

I gave her the one-eyebrow raise right back.  "I'm aware.  And guess what?  No birthday party for you."

Get into the time machine and go back to your young self.  What would you say to that kid?  Do you remember being twelve?  Are you feeling old?  What's new?

32 comments:

  1. I remember being 11 and wishing I was 18. It seems all my pre and teen years I wanted to be older. I've stopped that now!

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  2. I would give that 12-year-old a camera and get her into Brooks.

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  3. "No birthday party for you!"

    Ah, cruel but fair. ;)

    It I had silver hair, I'd cherish it. And at 45, you should feel young (relatively speaking.) I still feel young at 57, except when it hurts!

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  4. I am loving the beginning applications of P's abstract thinking. Sure, there's the angst and the penetrating logic, but I am appreciating it more now than I was with my daughters.

    I don't wish to be a day dumber than I am, as blissful as some of those days were.

    You are more beautiful every day, btw.

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  5. I hate January, too. Seems like the Bleak Midwinter.

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  6. Most of my diaries are filled with "I can't wait for x." Wishing my life away seems to be how I have spent most of my life. Now I wish I could time travel back to 30. However, I only want to be 30 if I can take the knowledge with me that I have now.

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  7. Are you kidding? When I wasn't practicing or reading I spent most of my tweens (although they hadn't invented that term yet) tormented that I would be 39 at the TURN OF THE CENTURY and that would be IT. Finito. The End. If I could make it that far I would be O.L.D. for sure so I better get most of my goals met before that - and also the world would probably end. 2000 being a nice round number. This was under a great deal of influence of the "The Late Great Planet Earth" and their ilk (last century's version of "Left Behind")

    And now look at us. Not only did the world not end, but we're all 10 years older than that even!

    I have quite a bit of cognitive dissonance about the fact that I've started my 50th year on the planet.

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  8. i'm pretty sure whatever i would have told my 12 year old self would have went in one ear and out the other even if it was me telling her. i had an aversion to anyone older than me trying to tell me what to do at that age. the flipside is that lately, i've been trying to channel my 12 year old self and ask her what she would do if she were me right now.

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  9. I would have told my 12 year old self to stop trying so hard...and my 21 year old self to try a little harder.

    I spent a good deal of my teens worrying that I was, well, LESS. If I was a teenager now, I'd probably be medicated. Rightfully so, may I add.

    I had a true-blue fit regarding age when I turned 16. I just knew I'd die by age 30, and my life was over 1/2 over! Nooze was born when I was 29; my 30th birthday was one of the best I've ever had. They get better every year, too.

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  10. I would say to the 12 year old me, "Relax - that girl you want to love for the rest of your life is not that far away," and "Draw more, and care less about what people think of it," and "6th grade really IS pretty cool - don't rush it." I would not forewarn that poor kid that 7th and 8th grades would be some of the worst years of the next forty.

    And January is the hiatus after the holidays, and I love it for that - but the weather wuse could be better, even here in NC.

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  11. With two kids in college and turning 49 last month, I've been feeling old for the first time.

    It's really bizarre if I think about it logically because my knee is the closest to being normal that it's been in 2 1/2 years. I can dance and hike strenuous trails again or garden all day without even thinking about it. I'm also been doing more "younger kid" stuff with my 11 yo because he's the only one left at home. I haven't blogged about this because I have no conclusions.

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  12. I was seven when my Da died. He was 41. I thought he was old. When I hit 41, it was a hard year, mostly because I remembered thinking that 41 was OLD. There I was, with a newborn baby with colic, a job that I didn't really like but I still felt relatively young.

    Now, I am 52 and 41 sounds like a sweet young thing...

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  14. "Get into the time machine and go back to your young self. What would you say to that kid?"

    Oh geez. I was a HOT mess when I was a teenager. But. Okay, Ill play:

    Dear 12 Year Old Meleah,

    Hey, wiseass. You’re not that tough.

    Why don’t you drink yourself a nice glass of ‘shut the hell up’, loose the attitude, and smarten up.

    Here's a little secret in your ear, you do NOT know everything.

    Love,
    Adult Meleah.

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  15. Oh my God, you are a kindred spirit,Lisa! I've written so many blog posts on this related topic. I often tell myself I have no regrets, but that's probably a lie. I'm not usually a blog whore, but if you're ever bored:

    http://sherrystanfa-stanley.blogspot.com/2009/05/regrets-only.html

    http://sherrystanfa-stanley.blogspot.com/2009/05/advice-for-young-woman.html

    http://sherrystanfa-stanley.blogspot.com/2009/08/wishful-thinking.html

    Sorry for what may seem like blatant pandering, but guess I'm commiserating. Enjoy each moment. And make the most of them.

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  16. Just want you to know I'm thinking about you. And I hate that I have to sign in to leave a comment.

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  17. Older daughter, late September
    Younger daughter, mid October
    Me, mid November
    Jayzus, late December
    Jan bats clean-up (or as we said in Texas, "Pecks shit with the chickens.") mid January.

    I think Jan might side with Sophie.

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  18. Yep, you made me think again...and laugh...I'm telling you, it always happens. :)

    And I LOVE that song...I try to listen to it at least once a week. Thanks for posting it here. :)

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  19. January 14 is my birthday!

    I feel basically 27, although coming right up I'll be one year closer to 50, very very much closer. And at this ripe old age I've finally learned to focus on the minute. I don't do it all the time, but often I can bring myself back to the here and now. Slows things down a bit.

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  20. First of all, sometimes I still feel 12. But yes, I can definitely relate. When I went through my old diaries recently (humiliating results can be seen here!), I discovered that I was convinced I was grown up from the age of 11 on. I very much liked to sit around musing on my maturity and oldness and life in general. That and crushing on local radio personalities apparently was what my entire young life was all about.

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  21. I also remember that I was convinced that once you turned 15, you were an adult. As in a 100%, completely grown-up and self-sufficient adult. So obviously, I couldn't wait to turn 15. But then I did and I was awkward and had a weird haircut and none of it went according to plan.

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  22. Yes, at twelve I was twelve going on 40 and felt old. Now? I feel young :-).

    I am glad you feel young too.

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  23. Oh, your wise little person... My 12 year old just tells me I'm strange. Then again, he's the one just like me and is at peace with that... I am just eager for everybody else in my house to grow up so I can stop being the responsible adult...

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  24. Great post. And great use of a Talking Heads lyric.

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  25. Boo Boo is excited for her January 9th birthday - she is too young yet to worry there will be no party.

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  26. Sounds similar to a conversation I had with Moriah last summer right before her 13th birthday. I'm glad there's someone else who doesn't feel old at 45. Truth be told, I feel really good, and snotty kids who make cracks like your deserve not only no birthday parties, but coal in Christmas stockings, and a dye-job to give them that same, silver sheen.

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  27. "Don't worry. You'll get the last laugh."

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  28. "I was so much older then,
    I'm younger than that now."
    --Bob Dylan

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  29. I wish it was my youngest that was turning 12...my grandson will be turning 13 in April...it's all a matter of perspective! lol I can remember when I was 12...I had a crush on a 13 year old who looked like Clay Cole...he was competition for Dick Clark way back when...lol Not to worry, Lisa, you will be forever young! :)

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  30. I'm old enough to remember taking our son to the 'Stop Making Sense' tour. I still feel the energy.

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  31. I'd probably tell her something about sticking to her dreams and not selling herself short. I was always a confident kid, but you know, around twelve some hormornes are doing weird things and I was a little less than confident. But she'll get over it soon enough.

    I can honestly say I like myself better with each year. I've got the "big 5-0" birthday next year, and there have been some inevitable reminding myself of my mortality. But like the lack of confidence I had at 12, I expect I'll be able to squash those too and move on.

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  32. I remember my mom telling me that she didn't feel inside the age she was - I didn't know what she meant until after I had kids and now I tell my kids the same thing. It is hard to pinpoint how old I feel - but certainly not nearly 60 (with my silver hair tumbling down my back, too.)

    I would tell the 12 year old to try to enjoy each age she is and not to rush...

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And then you say....

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