I hit a significant milestone this week. On Tuesday, my youngest daughter turned 20.
We adopted 6-week old Jessica when the other kids were 10, 12, 14 and 16 years old, so that age gap between them lengthened our parenting experience. When Jessica left for college Fall-before-last, it was the first time in 35 years we hadn’t had a kid in the house. And, since 1989, our lives have been filled with teenagers.
So now in my late fifties I find myself in a process of redefinition that many of my friends have already completed. My identity as a mother is giving way to that of grandmother. It feels a little weird. But instead of having to support my children they are beginning to support me. Nice.
Change is a constant in our lives. Just as we begin to feel comfortable at one life stage, time propels us to the next.
As a rule, teenagers glory in their youth. Boys, especially, tend to feel fearless and invincible. That leads to a common error in their assessment of us older folks. Their judgment of us is one-dimensional, based only on what they see standing before them.
What they fail to take into account is that senior adults are the sum total of all their life experiences. Everything they have ever been and done is fused to the present person. The octogenarian teetering down a sidewalk can remember vividly how it feels to run 50 yards with a football cradled in his arm. I’m fat and sedentary now, but my mind can easily access the high school sprinter I used to be. We move on, but we don’t forget.
Even though we’re reluctant to leave behind the persons we used to be, there are blessings to anticipate at every stage in life. My body has stiffened and slowed, but I wouldn’t trade away the beautiful grandkids I have now or my repository of world experiences to get back my teenage form.