Privilege Blog

Out Standing In The Backyard, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:58am

My daughter turned 24 this week. I’ve been trying to discern, through memories, exactly when children’s birthdays begin to make parents feel older.

Not when they are small, newborns, infants, babies, toddlers, children, middle schoolers, teenagers, oh, wait. That’s not small any more. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tom-tom litany of growth. Children are a natural source of milestones. Ammie, for example, is crawling.

Kids smile, laugh, roll over, creep, walk, say a few words, talk so much you want to hide under your bed, argue, wonder why the world is unjust, cook their own breakfast, walk out the door with a bag in one hand, car keys in the other.

Jingle jingle bye bye mom.

At first you ask yourself, “How did my baby – who stood intrepid and small in the backyard – get to be 12?” But when that baby turns 24, you ask yourself, “How did I, me, get to be old enough to have a child coming up on 25?” Because 25, it seems to me, is when people turn into real adults. The mothers of 25-year-olds must then be different.

I think of aging like a staircase, you bump down the steps, seated and ungainly. Every now and then you hit a landing, and forget you’re destined to end up at the bottom. You sit, waiting for tea to arrive. It does not, in my experience. That’s OK.

I do not particularly care for the three wrinkles that bisect my lips. I adore my red-headed girl with all my heart. There’s really nothing to do but shrug and proceed. I would prefer not to age, but I cannot sort out an alternative. We accept these tradeoffs, some of us shoving the paradox of vivid life and final end under the sofa cushions, others relying on frameworks of faith.

In the end, a sense of how unusual it is to be alive at all  holds onto my skirts and won’t let go. Think of all the permutations. Click. We got life. Do you go about your days with this companion wonder? Do we all?

To my daughter, happy birthday again. I am very glad you had a good day, I hope your like your iPad2, and good luck with the dog-sitting. See you soon, Mom.

43 Responses

  1. The wonder is necessary, even if one must force oneself to recover it when mislaid. I was moping about when my middle kid (going on 23) sent me a Leonard Cohen quote about cracked bells and no perfect offerings. When I despair of the inevitable slog to the grave, I rotate my perspective enough to appreciate what I have brought to the world and what there remains for me to do. Being alive is indeed a wonderful gift.

  2. I tell you what is even scarier.. My dogs father will be 18 this year.. I see him strutting his stuff around the village..
    My dog is two… and the thought now is he may out live me.. there is no planning on what breed next anymore… xx

  3. I have one a year younger – my eldest and it is astonishing to me that we have both arrived at where we are. He, full grown, moving on to yet another stage of higher education and me, among other things, the mother of someone that age!! I like your analogy of the staircase – I’ve had quite enough bumps for now – I’d like to linger on the landing with some tea now please. And I totally agree with Laura, the wonder is a necessity, just like a sense of humor – without those we are indeed lost!

  4. There is another stage between “vivid life and final end” I’m there now asking myself much the same questions….my daughter turned 46.

  5. Today is my daughter’s birthday too. Only she’s turning 43! How did that happen? There is no way I’m old enough to have a 43 year old child, no matter how young I started. It’s a mystery ;-)

  6. It is indeed a wonder, is astounding to think back to when my son and daughter were teenagers.

    Now I have four grandchildren and am constantly thinking up ways of how I can make a difference in their young lives!


    Art by Karena

  7. As my husband remarked when I was bemoaning not feeling 60 on my last birthday: “Yah, but having another birthday still beats the alternative…” A comment that still puts a smile on my face.

  8. This entry is so appropriate seeing as I turn 26 on Wednesday. I have seen a lot of things shift in the past year, and I have notably seen a dynamic between my Mom and I deepen as well. I am Lucky to be the baby of her three children and to have had more time with her then my two elder siblings who flew the coop and did not come back as often as I did… I treasure my relationship with my Mom… And thank you for writing this entry as I felt a familiar pull in me over what you wrote.

  9. 18. Watching my oldest daughter turn 18 did it for me. And the ever developing wrinkles on my face. Oh, but on the bright side, we haven’t haven’t heard “I swear, when I turn 18, I’m outta here” since that day!

  10. The staircase analogy resonated with me but it’s interesting that you think of aging as a staircase down – it really seems to me more like an uphill climb.
    But then, I am not raising children. That might affect the view.

  11. I find both these quotes very true and relevant!

    Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to us.
    -Leon Trotsky

    Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
    -Eleanor Roosevelt

  12. “…a sense of how unusual it is to be alive at all…” rattles my cage and shakes me to the foundations, but good to know I will officially reach adult status at 64, huh? And then again at 66 hehehehehehe

  13. I love reading your perspective on your adult children. At the very beginning of that journey it’s nice to have a look at the future.

  14. Your “We accept these tradeoffs, some of us shoving the paradox of vivid life and final end under the sofa cushions, others relying on frameworks of faith” is a wise summary. It all whirls by anyhow, whether or not we stop to heed, but perhaps the heeding enrichens our temporary awareness. Happy 24 to your red-haired girl.

  15. Some believe, that the psychological growth is reached at age 30, so there is still time for you and your daughter to get adjusted.
    I have noticed that there are times, I´m still needed for my firstborn one, and then there are lots of times, I just have to stay out of the way.
    It is a sad feeling noticing that I´m left out, yet it would be more sad, if things turned the other way around.
    Happy birthday to You too!

  16. I like your phrase “There’s really nothing to do but shrug and proceed”. My daughters are 19 and 21. I try to always look ahead, and when I do look behind I try not to dwell there too long. Every new stage is uncharted territory, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

  17. I once met a woman whose son had turned thirty, when mine had turned two: “It changes, but it doesn’t”, she said. “He still surprises and delights me, he’s still growing.” Sounds like your daughter is doing the same, and what more could one ask for?

  18. Happy (belated) birthday to your daughter!

    It’s the hands that get me. I remember my mom’s hands guiding me when I was small, and I look down at my own hands against baby-smooth skin, holding my beautiful daughter. I wonder how I am old enough to have these hands, sun kissed and scarred from years of cooking accidents. I think my own mother did not really begin to feel old until I gave her her first granddaughter, but I don’t know, and feel strange asking. Better to shove it under the pillows and let both of us pretend she is still young and vital.

  19. It’s like that song “Turn Around”
    they grow up so fast.

    My daughter is 31…and she is very much an adult but to me she’ll always be my little girl.

    Enjoy the celebrations and smile through those tears!

  20. Happy Birthday to your daughter! That picture is very sweet but made me a little sad, as it reminded me of my favorite Anna Quindlen quote, “There is one picture of the three on them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

  21. Son1 will turn 24 in 18 days. I didn’t know our love bugs were so close in age or birthdays. It really is a time to reflect, to rejoice, to contemplate the aging inevitable for all parties involved. I love how you look at it as a trade off. That’s a very fresh and youthful approach seasoned with the wisdom only age can give. Happy day (and year) to your love.

  22. As I get older (I’m now 27) I think about my parents aging. One more year to spend with them now means one less year in the future, when I have adult children of my own. How much it hurts to be surrounded by people we love so much. But yes, it is better than the alternative. Thank you for your perspective. Your children are very lucky.

  23. For me, perhaps because mine are older and a wider age range (26-35, I rarely feel the surprise at my kids’ ages, that sense of “Wow, how did I get so old?” Instead, I tend to get that sense when I see a child who reminds me of another child I used to know, a friend’s daughter, say, or a piano student I once taught — and then I do some rapid calculations and realize that the child I’m being reminded of would probably be 25, or 30, even 35. . . . This happens surprisingly often, and it always gives me a momentary jolt.
    Right now, I’m having a pleasant confrontation with aging, mine and my daughter’s — I’m helping potty-train her daughter, my granddaughter, so memories are flooding in (flooding is perhaps a word to avoid, in this circumstance. . . )

  24. It’s true, everything you say and I can also see what a good job you’ve done, and no doubt brought beautiful souls/solid adults into the world.

    xo Mary Jo

  25. I know you’ve been having a little fun lately thinking of alternative names for your blog. I would like “I would prefer not to age, but I cannot sort out an alternative” as an alternative strapline, at least for these Saturday morning posts, which are my absolute favourites, even (especially?) when they make me cry.

    My little sister turned 25 last week, and my eldest brother’s baby (my mother’s second grandchild) is due in a week or so. I think that more or less concludes my mother’s transition to grandmother. I’m not threatened by my own ageing yet, but I most definitely am by hers.

  26. Shame, shame, shame on me — I got so caught up in thinking about the ageing aspect of your question, I completely missed the opportunity to extend birthday greetings to your daughter. Belatedly, may I wish her all the best as she moves toward the next one . . .

  27. My mother is dealing with my impending 30th birthday by dating a hot guy nine years younger than she is. GO MOM.

  28. Happy Birhtday to your daughter! Twenty five is one of those special landmark ages, for everyone involved. Actually…I think all the ‘fives’ are, although our God-daughter turning 18 this year had me wondering where the time flew in a very serious way.
    The picture is so sweet…she’s very lucky to have such a waspishly stylish and caring mommy!
    xo J~

  29. Laura – Thank you. That is very beautiful.

    Ruth – Now that’s a robust dog!

    Quintessence – I will meet you on the landing. English Breakfast? Darjeeling? Green Dragon?

    Sandra – Is life less vivid then? My youngest sister is 45, my mother 78. Your life seems very vivid. But I am only glad to hear that I don’t know everything yet.

    Kerry – Happy birthday to your daughter! And I am so excited to have readers who are the next landing down from me. Thank you so much.

    Terri – I find the thanks do just that, they rise in the heart.

  30. Karena – Four grandchildren? How absolutely wonderful.

    Marilyn – Oh, gosh, welcome! Go husband. Good attitude:).

    Worthy – Happy birthday to you too! Your mom must just love to feel your relationship deepen.

    Erin – There’s always a bright side:). That’s a good one.

    Susan – Thank you very much Susan.

    Alex – I suppose it’s the inexorable pull that makes me feel like it’s going downstairs. And the way it happens when I’m not looking.

  31. Linda – Lovely. Thank you. I especially like Mrs. Roosevelt’s quote.

    Mags – Hehehehehe. Now that we live long and well, I wonder if we need a word beyond adult.

    Julia – I am so excited for you guys. And I’m glad you like the musings. Thank you.

    Mise – The Buddhists believe in mindfulness, I’m willing to give it a shot. Thank you for the birthday wishes to my dear red-haired girl.

    Mette – I am very clear that 25 is the earliest it happens, in these days. Ah, yes, it is the birthday of my motherhood, isn’t it. I still remember first hearing her heartbeat. Thank you.

    Sue – Thanks. Your girls have sisters, that is lovely.

  32. Duchesse – You are so right.

    Aleatha – Thank you! And I agree, the hands are the telltale sign. I’ve always looked at my own hands, wondering when they will become the hands of an old lady. As to how your mother feels, I am sure the joy of a granddaughter completely outweighs any regret at her own aging.

    hostess – You bet:). Smiling:).

    Dawn – Aw. I have always felt so lucky that I could stay home, at least for the first 4 years of my daughter’s life, and not back full time until she turned 10. It was so much work and yet so full of joy my heart almost burst.

    agirl – xoxoxoxox. And jewels and feathers.

  33. Marilyn – If I could only figure out a way to REALLY arrange these things:).

    kacey – Thank you. It is almost painful sometimes to really love people. I wonder what the evolutionary benefit of that is:).

    mater – Hahahahaha. And so interesting that it’s other children that bring you this same feeling. No worries. She had a lot of fete:).

    Muffy – Thank you! Yes, of course, she’s in a cotton navy blue sweater covered in sailboats:). My mother sent it, if I remember. The hat was Hanna Andersson, oh those little baby caps….

    Mary Jo – Thank you dear Mary Jo.

  34. Cate – Ah. Perhaps I will use that one next. And I consider it a privilege to make you cry. That sounds odd, but probably you know what I mean.

    Mouse – Go mom! A woman after my own heart.

    Patsy – Agreed! Winner! And thank you for the birthday greetings to my girlie.

    Jessica – Thank you. She’s turning 24, but 25 approaches, that’s what was in my clearly confused mind:).

  35. It was recently my daughter’s first birthday, and that made me feel old. I still can’t compute how I’m old enough to have a one year old when in my mind I still feel about 19!

  36. Beautiful post. As my father has always said of aging “It beats the alternative.” But as the mother of an adolescent, I know having a 24 year old is just around the corner… For me, the hardest thing is to watch my parents age. I don’t know how that’s happening!

  37. Happy belated birthday & iPad 2 to your girl (because I’ve decided that our children forever remain our “boys” and “girls”, regardless of 25th birthdays).

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