I had The Chief I was thirty-one years old. I don't know about where you come from, but having a first child at thirty-one years old is pretty rare around here. My mother had her first baby in her very early twenties, my sisters the same.
When I had The Chief at thirty-one I had convinced myself that I was mostly washed up. I was going to do my best to be an old thirty-one year old mother, and I was going to try and keep up, but it was second best. Second best to being young and twenty-ish.
So anytime I was tired, exhausted or strung out with my newborn, I never allowed myself to say "Well, this is motherhood" instead I'd say, "Well, that's because you're too old to be having babies."
Sometimes my own view is so small, you see.
Then there came a day when The Chief--one years old--was climbing on the concrete stairs to the backyard. I was lounging in the white sun chair watching his every move. I watched as he slipped past the railing and starting daring his feet to hang over the four foot drop below. I thought about gettting up and saving his diapered behind, but instead I just sat in my lounge chair watching him. In fact, it wasn't until he landed with a hard thud to the back of his head that I got up from that lounge chair and offered my condolences. He screamed, held his breath and fainted (it's a syndrome) and never once did I think, "I should have prevented that situation."
But I tried to feel bad--because I knew I should feel bad--about not spotting him on those stairs.
So after thinking about it for a couple days I decided that I was not only an old mother, but a lazy one. My age made me incapable of having enough energy to properly keep a toddler, you see. I was old, I was lazy, but I'd still continue to try and keep up.
I watched younger mothers like satellites around their babies with fresh wipes and clean diapers never two feet away. One time I put The Chief in a swim diaper at church because it was the only thing I could find after fishing around under the seats in the car. I was too old to know that swim diapers are good for nothing on dry land. And I was too lazy to have stocked the diaper bag. Truthfully, the only reason I had a diaper bag was because all the young moms had one. Anyway, he was soaking within twenty minutes of the diaper change.
"Swim diapers don't absorb," one young mother informed me as I discovered the failed attempt.
I didn't care about reading any parenting books starting with What to Expect When You're Expecting to How to Get Your Child to Sleep Through the Night because those were for eager parents who had the energy for expectations and sleeping schedules. Me? I was just glad to be a parent in the first place.
I was old and lazy and that's why I didn't care if The Chief drew with marker all over the walls, or if he was horrible at sharing, or became a damned to hell demon at church, or if he constantly peed in inappropriate places, or if he jumped from greater and greater heights. A young mother would have the energy to research, plan, make goals, create sticker charts and pray for progress. Not me.
Then last night as I was washing the dishes and Ever was getting chocolate chip cookie drool all over every piece of space in our house at the two foot level, I resorted to the same, "You could stop her, but you're too old to be a mother, too old to be pregnant and too lazy . . ."
Which is when a voice in my head retorted, "That's not true. These choices you are making have nothing to do with how old you are, they are choices you make because you have faith in your children. You have faith that with minimal intervention your children will learn what they need to learn. Stop making it about your age, you would've been the same mother ten years ago. This is what motherhood feels like for you. Accept it."
Suddenly what I thought was tempered negligence was actually veiled intelligence all along.
So today I woke up and and told myself that I am not an old mother, I am not a lazy mother, I just do things a little differently, and that's okay.
Then tomorrow, I am going to repeat that mantra.
And the next day.
And the next day.
And probably every day after that for the rest of my life.