Since school is officially out for all three girls, I have spent much of the week with my daughters and their friends. Many of these girls we have known since we moved to San Diego 10 years ago. I remember them when they were truly little people. Now they tower over me or look me in the eye when they speak. Suddenly, I am diminished to a little old lady. It’s been a humbling week.
And it’s not just the height that marks me old. Their humor has developed into something I could enjoy participating in, if I were not the killjoy that a parent is. Their conversations touch on topics beyond today’s popular culture, to real issues and concerns that I share, if only my interruptions did not grind all conversation in the car to a halt. They care about issues I care about, want to rush in and do good in the world, much as I did and still do. They just are not interested in the ways I do it and the suggestions I make.
It is a different world and I am apparently very much out of touch with it. We are becoming more in synch but less in touch. The real issue seems to be that I am their mom and not someone—anyone—else.
One of my little people shared that very thought with me recently. She said I was cool sometimes, when she felt I was more like an admired aunt and not her mom. Digging into the issue, I didn’t get a lot of traction. What made me a mom? No real answers were forthcoming, but I could guess. The chores, living in the same house, spending too much time together in said house, serving as taxi cab driver—is that what lumps me into the old and out-of-touch category?
And really, what achieves aunt status? Is my advice and council weighted more when I spend less time with my children and less when familiarity breeds contempt? Is it when a girlfriend affirms your mom is cool that suddenly mom is valued?
It doesn’t help that the gray hair keeps coming in or my daughters dust my pants in yoga class. They are young and limber and agile and very full of energy, even though they want to sleep until noon. I look at them and see myself, that image of me that I don’t see reflected in the mirror these days. They see a tired woman with too many commitments who’s quite cranky sometimes…very much an old lady.
Their view is reflected in their actions, making decisions for me, helping with things I really didn’t need help with, treating me as an invalid. They even censor my actions for my own good – mom, don’t pick that up, you’ll hurt yourself, it’s too heavy. I didn’t anticipate those words for decades to come. Driver’s licenses are coming very soon, will they take the keys away from me as well? I’d rather they take the cooking and housekeeping.
If this is life in my 40s, what will it look like in my 80s? What about at age 103 that I tell them repeatedly is my goal in life? I crack the jokes about living with them as a little old lady and how they should be wealthy so they can hire me a chauffeur, personal cook and housekeeper to take care of me the way I have taken care of them all these years. I keep a running tally. As of today, they owe me 45 years of care and upkeep.
By this count, I could be retired and living a life of leisure in a quarter century, if only they make enough money to sustain in the custom I would like to be accustomed.