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Married With Baggage
(My good friend, full of life at mid-life)
I'm all teary right now, a regular mess. I've been working on a baby shower invitation for one of my best friends and just sent it out. Flashes and images of my own children as babies are streaming through my mind, those most precious and innocent of years.
Fast forward to the teenage years when I was in the throes of four teenagers who were quite productive totaling four cars, getting four underage drinking tickets, and playing pranks that landed them in the local police station in the middle of dark and playful nights.
I was invited to a baby shower back in those days...those days of sleepless nights, middle of the night phone calls, and cab drivers who were well acquainted with each one of my children. I arrived at the Karmic Baby Blessing Shower (yes, remember I live in Boulder) with large bags under my eyes, harried, hormonal and particularly annoyed with one of my teenagers after his recent bold and loud pronouncement, "I hate you and you're ruining my life!"
We all sat in a circle with the mother-to-be; she, full of belly and new life, surrounded by those she loved...her cheeks rosy and her face expectant and excited about the new life she was about to bring into the world.
I wanted a drink and the decaf green tea laced with honey wasn't cutting it.
Before the gifts for the soon-to-be born baby were opened, the hostess asked each woman to give my friend a "blessing and a wish". I'm still hoping that my loud snort, a reaction as voluntary as a sudden twitch in the eye, wasn't heard.
As each woman softly and gently gave the imminent mother a blessing and a wish, the tears, ahhhh's, and handkerchiefs were in full abundance. Then it was my turn. I swear I had no intention of saying what I did, but this is what came out of my mouth in a very loud voice:
"THIS KID IS GOING TO BREAK YOUR HEART!"
Gasps were heard around the room. But did that stop me? Of course not. I continued,
"THAT'S RIGHT. THIS KID IS GOING TO BREAK YOUR HEART. YOU WILL POUR YOUR HEART, SOUL AND LIFE SAVINGS OUT TO THIS KID. YOU WILL USE UP EVERY BIT OF YOUTHFUL ENERGY YOU HAVE TO GIVE TO THIS CHILD WHO WILL NEVER APPRECIATE IT, NEVER GIVE YOU THE CREDIT YOU DESERVE UNTIL HE OR SHE HAS KIDS AND THEN YOU'LL BE LUCKY IF YOU'VE STILL GOT YOUR FACULTIES TO HEAR OR COMPREHEND THEIR GRATITUDE!"
I haven't been invited to another baby shower since.
But here I am, ten years later sending out invitations to a baby shower for my dear friend, and getting all sloppy sentimental about it.
And here's the deal with my friend. She will be 44 when her baby is born in March. Forty-four. That means she'll be 60 when her child will be getting his driver's license. 60...that age when retirement is on one's mind and thoughts of slowing down just a little to enjoy the fruits of your labor are the developmental task of the decade.
But not when you have a teenager. A teenager translates to loss of sleep, keeping track, crossing fingers and lecturing until you're blue in the face. Having a teenager means you better have a sizable reserve of energy, resilience, and patience to get through an age where your children find you old, antiquated and ignorant (which, let's face it, it doesn't matter how old or young you are...you will be a dinosaur to them).
My friend is not going to be making any headlines. In fact, 1 out of 5 women worldwide are waiting until at least age 35 to start their families.
These days, maybe it's true that the 40's are the new 20's when it comes to having children. But what does it mean for these children whose parents are practically eligible for AARP when they are born? What burdens will they have in their young lives with elderly parents who may need care and support before they graduate from college?
I envy my friend who is expecting her first baby at 44. Youth is wasted on the young. This is a true statement in so many ways. And what may be lacking in physical energy will surely be compensated for with wisdom, experience and the advantage and luxury of truly being able to get to know one's self before becoming a parent.
This child will come into the world with parents who have had fifteen years to build and secure a marriage that is solid and free of the dual task of growing up and being a parent at the same time. This child will come into the world with parents who have had the time to explore the world, build a solid savings account and be more than besides themselves with excitement that they are going to be parents in the late summer of their lives.
This child will come into the world with a mother who has the body of a teenager herself, a practiced Pilates and Yoga instructor and a father who is an osteopathic doctor who has the heart of a young warrior, eagerly anticipating the responsibility of nurturing and protecting the son he wasn't sure he would ever be able to have.
I think back on the outburst I had at that baby shower so many years ago. I still believe every word I said...being a parent will break your heart, over and over again. Sometimes your heart will be broken in the worst of ways, the ways where flood waters of pain and worry will course into the innermost places of your psyche and being. And sometimes your heart will be broken in the best of ways, when you see that your child no longer needs you or depends on you but delights in your company anyway.
Being alive is a miraculous event and age is just a number. I'll be a great support to my friends when their baby is born, but honestly, I won't be offering to babysit. I'm just way too old for that.