When I look at this photo of a proud mama holding her precious little one tight in her strong arms, only the prominent laugh lines around her eyes, the extra chin, and loose skin gathering at the base of her neck reveal that she is in fact NOT in her late 20’s or early 30’s as one might expect. As I once hoped prior to a late start to motherhood following a 9 year battle with infertility. You see, forty doesn’t scare me. No, if I have learned anything over these years it is that a number on a driver’s license or another page turned on a calendar does not have the power to tell the full story any more than the number on a scale does. 40. Pshaw. I got this. Nothing to it. Except finally being comfortable in my own skin and more accepting of both my gifts and my failures.
Being forty with little ones, however, that is another beast entirely. No, the number doesn’t bother me. At all. However, the season of life that accompanies the number causes me concern. To say the least.
Sometimes I lie awake at night calculating how old I will be when…
…they are in middle school.
…they get their driver’s licenses.
…they go on their first dates.
…they graduate from high school.
…they fall in love.
…they get married.
…they have their babies (please, Lord, let them have babies. and let me live to see it happen).
And my palms get sweaty, my heart races and my skin starts to itch. And I panic. And feel a bit trapped by the years that have passed and the years I see stretched before me. And I am overwhelmed by an urgent desire to pick up the pieces of me that I laid down when I chose to mother these littles full time. Don’t get me wrong. I am not sorry that I put parts of myself aside. Any sacrifice I make in order to spend one more moment with these long awaited gifts is totally worth it to me. But, I fear when the time finally comes to begin again that I may be too old to remember what the pieces look like or, worse yet, where I put them.
I catch glimpses of my full shadow every now and again which helps me remember. For now. But with each remembrance comes a deep longing. Like when…
…I spent a week in Haiti loving, laughing and all around harassing Lacey and the gang of young’uns.
…I squealed out loud with glee standing in the juvenile fiction section at the public library only to look up and see a 10 year old girl looking at me with concern. I felt compelled to let her know that I was just excited that they finally had the book I had been waiting not so patiently to read. Never mind that it was written for 5th graders.
…I carve out time to find words for the thoughts & dreams in my head, especially when I can write them out to share with you.
…I am hanging out with the kids from the wrong side of the tracks with every card stacked against them – talking life & literature and letting them teach me how to love.
…I am sitting across from a friend and a full coffee mug & we both have tears in our eyes from all the laughing. Or just plain crying.
…I crack myself up at yet another witty (aka smart aleck) text response that I have so craftily composed on the fly. As I have said before, sarcasm is my best language.
…I am snuggled under a cozy afghan reading a beautiful story with Emmylou or Eliza. Or just myself.
…I am peering through the lens at an ordinary moment that takes my breath away with its everyday beauty.
Pieces of me. With dreams attached. All but forgotten most days. And I wonder if there will be time on the other side of this adventure for me to walk through the doors that I closed behind me when I entered the delivery room. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But for now, I will give 40 with littles all that I’ve got and let 50 with a 7th grader & junior take care of itself. And who knows what kind of dreams will come true in the meantime. And what kind of opportunities to live my with whole being might be given to me. I just don’t want to let what isn’t steal the joy of what is right in front of me. Now.
And then there is this… My manifesto for 40 (one of many). May it be so.
she sang. she took.
she dissented. she enlivened.
she saw. she grew. she sweated.
she learned. she laughed.
she shed her skin.
she bled on the pages of her days,
she walked through walls,
she lived with intention.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher