Sunday, January 31, 2010

That Old Feeling

I am 52, almost 53. My daughter is 13. Do the math. Yep, I was 40 (nearly) when she was born. That in itself isn't really that unusual. In fact, I know several moms in my daughter's class at middle school who are about the same age as I am. So I don't feel particularly alone in this adventure, but I do definitely feel in the minority.
It began when Lindsay was in grade school, or no, really it began in her co-op preschool in Las Vegas (of all places!). Almost every other mom was young enough to be my daughter. Or maybe that was just reconstructive surgery, not that I'm making a comment about people who choose to live in Vegas. After all, we lived there, albeit under some forms of duress...but that's another blog. So these other co-op preschool moms were amazingly young, very wealthy, and almost to a person they were powermoms. Women who had held corporate positions of some power who made the considered decision to leave the structured world of business or law and stay home to raise their kids. Their approach to raising babies was as furiously educated and determinedly success-oriented as if they still worked for Smith-Kline, or whomever. And they had energy to burn.
Me, I loved just staying home and watching Kipper with Lindsay. Playing a game of cooties now and then. But she was 3 1/2 and had spent 18 months at home with me, so I guessed it was about time for her to get the hang of being with other youngsters. Thus began our adventure into the world.
Among the uber-moms of the co-op I felt like I was puffing along behind, grabbing for their coattails. Fundraisers consisted of elegant evenings with live auctions of donations like 10 free hours at the local spa or investment advice. I'd have loved to just sit and have coffee with these women, but I found I had nothing in common with them. Mostly they didn't sit and have coffee, but inhaled in on the run between their tots' violin lessons and French tutors.
Las Vegas was a strange enough place without that kind of alien parenting. I always thought kids were supposed to sit in mud puddles and get really mucky for fun.
When we'd go to the grocery store with Lindsay, people did double-takes when they'd see her enormous brown eyes and shock of black hair. But then they'd take another look at me (red-going-to-grey hair, pale skin) and then another look at her olive skin (which she got from her Greek dad) and dark eyes, and you could just hear the wheels grinding and smoking. More than once I was asked about my "grandchild". I could never tell if it was just that she looked so different than me or if I looked that much older than she was.
From the inside, it's never felt odd to be an "older" parent. Lindsay entered our lives when we had pretty much decided we wouldn't be having any babies. It wasn't happening, so it wasn't meant to be. When Lindsay arrived, it just seemed like the thing that was supposed to happen in our lives.
I think I can see the disconnect other people might perceive, though.
Today our pastor was surprised with the news that his daughter and her husband are going to have a baby next fall. Pastor Blaine is in his forties, perhaps nearly a decade younger than I am, and he'll be a grandpa very soon. There is a certain disorienting quality to that. I sat looking at him and thinking "He seems so young to can he have the grandpa requirements? Grey hair, perspective, stories about so long ago that it seems like fairy-tales. He texts in church, uses current does this work?" I'm perceiving the disconnect...
Oh, and Technology--we must be at least five years behind the curve in our house. At least. I feel all current because I was the first one to get on Facebook. Yay me!
My 83-year-old mom is on Facebook.
Okay, so I'm not doing all that well keeping up with the latest, but I consider that it's a life-style choice, one we make with eyes wide open, understanding that our day-to-day quality of life and that of our daughter will be just fine, if not better, without having a 60-inch plasma TV, Blu-ray player, internet-connected cell phones and a computer for each of us (in fact, we just replaced an 8-year-old Dell, which we figure was 92 in computer years...)
We feel, perhaps a little defensively, that we give Lindsay lots of things she wouldn't in a hundred lifetimes get in a family with "normal" parents, agewise or otherwise. How many 13-year-old girls know who Groucho Marx and Laurel and hardy are? Buster Keaton? The Beatles? Well, they're eternally popular, but you get the gist. My husband and I represent the earliest and latest parameters of the Baby Boomer generation, and our breadth of interests vividly demonstrate that. The Doors to Queen, Hippies to Yuppies.
What we don't give her, nor would we ever feel capable of giving her, is a knowledge of anything in the slightest bit cutting edge. Is this a debit or a credit on her long-term sense of belonging and well-being? Don't know. Can't worry. Well, try not to.
Maybe since we were somehow destined to live far away from all grandparently relatives, we are meant to fulfill some of those roles ourselves. Lindsay does have grandparents, and they have an entirely different outlook and some serious history behind them, all of them being in their 80's. Lindsay sees them once or twice a year at most. She is surrounded at our church by elderly people who love her and want the best for her. But they don't share DNA and family stories. So maybe Greg and I were meant to tell all those creaky stories and do the "when I was your age" admonishments she'd get if her parents were 30-something and her grandparents were, well, our age.
We must also be meant to mentor her through the electronic and social conundrums of her peers as well. What is a good balance of electronics and the "real" world? How do you navigate pimples, fashion and bullies?
After all, we are her parents, and who else can do that?