Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Milestones--Installment #9

When you start having kids, you anxiously anticipate their first tooth, first steps, first words. Then a little less anticipation for their first day of school, their first soccer game, their first science fair project. Then, even less anticipation and they begin to drive, to date, to become independent. And in your mind, when you hold that first baby (and second and third and fourth and . . . ) you think, " . . . and then they'll graduate from high school, go to college, serve missions, get married and have families of their own."

And then it comes, and you're unprepared and it's unfamiliar, and they are leaving. And there's nothing you can do about it. But never do you picture yourself there. Never do you think about how that must feel to have a child grow up and leave. Never do you contemplate how it will change you as the mother. And it's hard, REALLY HARD.

Until I discovered that Heidi was getting married, having a baby at 40 didn't really seem to faze me. I felt 30--at the very most 33--even though my oldest was in college. Now, I’m entering a realm that is unfamiliar, scary, and unwanted. I realize that no one sees me as the young mom any more. I’m the older mom, the experienced mom, the old mom. I’m the mom with wrinkles and pimples simultaneously—how is that fair? I’m the mom with teenagers who can drive their siblings places, not the mom stranded at home with all little kids. (Oh yeah. I’ll be that mom again, as soon as Tucker leaves for school.) Realistically, people won’t mistake me for Heidi’s sister, only to flatter me. Realistically, I could easily be mistaken for Eve’s grandma anytime in the near or distant future. Realistically, I could be a grandma anytime in the near or distant future.

I’m insecure about my ability to handle this new life, to even face it. One day, my nest will be empty. I’m beginning to face that certainty.
I’m not ready to go there. I’m not ready to grandma, to mother-in-law, to . . . age. Not ready to change what departments I shop in at Kohl’s and Dillard’s. Not ready to have chickens leave the nest forever. The world I’ve known and loved and belonged to for the last twenty years--motherhood--is changing. As one friend said, I have one toe in this new and unfamiliar world, while the rest of me is still fully engaged in the old one—chasing kids, teaching kids, disciplining kids. That’s where I belong. That’s where I want to stay.

And I can’t.

Milestone #9—I’ve reached my midlife crisis.



  1. Oh do I love this post Jen! Sometimes I think I had Griffin because I didn't want to face the realities that fertility is not forever. Or because I had ONE year of my 3 kids in school full day and I couldn't even deal with that! I want to stay there too...at home with little kids running around. I can't imagine it any other way. Thinking of you today.... :)

  2. I have had the horrifying experience (horrifying for me, deeply embarrassing for the other girl) who thought I was my sister's mom and her little boy was my grandson. WTH?! She's nine years younger than me, but "NO WAY!" Maybe I'm in denial that I am an old lady. Hope things are going well with the wedding plans. I'm amazed you have time to do such an awesome blog! It's fun to read and see your kids (I haven't even met the last three!) See you!

  3. From where I'm sitting, you look practically prepubescent!


    PS. Seriously, though, as long as you can claim the name of postpartum, you are definitely in your prime. And you will make one good-lookin' grandma!

  4. I agree with Sue - you are nowhere near being an old lady! You're pretty gorgeous, in fact! Why change the departments you shop in? I haven't. I look at it this way: when it's time for me to change, I will. And I have - very slowly, and in little ways. Certain things have become not as important to me as other things take their place. And this will happen to you, too. It won't happen all at once, as I imagined it would. (At first, a little voice would call for "Grandma" and I'd look at my mom.) But it grows on you. You keep trying it on, and you find it fits better and better with time. Don't force it, because you'll arrive in your own good time. I won't tell you that every time one leaves it isn't very bittersweet. You'll cry with each one. But new joys replace the loss, and relationships grow and change. The new dimension becomes a jewel so beautiful you could never have imagined it. Happy days, my friend.

  5. Love your blog and your darling family....and this post! I sooo relate. I was the mother of young children for so long (that's how I identified myself) then all of a sudden they all grew up overnight..how come I didn't see this coming! Thank heaven the next step is grandchildren! I have a new identity that I like even more than the old one...grammy! I promise you will love it, too.

  6. I still see the 30 yr old when I look in the mirror and then I see a picture of me and think "WHAT!? Who is that lady?" Just remember we will be old together!

    PS: My nest will be empty far sooner than yours and I am starting to panic!

  7. I love Karen's comment above, I hope it feels like that when the time comes for you to hear the word "Grandma" I wonder if it's a little like the feeling I had when I realized I didn't have any really little ones anymore. Suddenly it seemed no one needed me to rock them to sleep, or tie their shoes, or hold on to the back of their bike while they wobbled down the street. Then I stepped back and saw how much fun I was still having as a mom. How neat it was to have a real conversation about a current event with my child, or talk with them about their life, or have a serious conversation about faith and the gospel. Amazing! So, while the part of motherhood I always thought of and hoped for was silently finishing another phase of motherhood was opening, and it was awesome.

    I wonder if that's what we find as the transition you are experiencing occurs, motherhood's not over, it just changes. You will find new joy as you "mother" your adult child, and especially as you watch her mother her own children.

    There's no reason to wear thick soled shoes and carry a sweater everywhere, shop wherever cute clothes are found, and show off your great new shoes! Remember, 40 is fabulous! and so are you! Love ya Jenny!

  8. This is such a well written post. So well written in fact, it's got me all stressed out. I'm only at toddler age, and I'm the old mom and I don't EVER want them to grow up and leave me either. UGH!! The good news is, you ARE a wise Mom, and I don't think of you as old at all.

  9. I can't imagine you being anything but stunning. No one would mistake you for Eve's grandma. And if you think grandma sounds old - try great-grandma. I, too, am thinking of what Heidi's marriage means to my life and who I think I am. But these life changes are good and you can do it. I don't know anyone stronger than you.

  10. All I can say is AMEN! I feel like it's the beginning of the end. I'm not prepared. I didn't think it'd be this hard!

  11. I think Karen said it best, Jen you look fabulous. I'm too want to keep this old familiar life, it's comfy and I love it. Not this one where our kids leave the nest. (Did I mention we shipped our daughter off to Paris ALONE with her French class last week for spring break?) My hope is that when they do finally leave the nest to start their families they visit my nest all too often.


  12. When Emilee (my 17 year old) walked outside to hand me the baby (my baby) the contractor I was talking to said, "Oh, this must be your grand baby." Although I clearly heard what he said I quickly responded with, "I beg your pardon?" And you know what he had the gall to do? Repeat the comment! "This must be your grand baby." "Actually, she's mine, hard to believe to believe, I know." I answered. His shocked expression reminded me, I'm not the young mom anymore!

  13. If it makes you feel any better, I still look at you as the young, fresh, hip, cool mom, who KNOWS it all and can DO it all!