“How’d you like me to cut your grandson’s hair?,” came the question, innocently enough. Before I could respond, Morgan hopped up into the barber’s chair and announced, “That’s not my grandma. That’s my mom.”
I flash back to 1978. A different barber, a different son, a different question: “How’d you like me to cut your brother’s hair?”
Flash forward to 2006. A different lifetime. As the embarrassed barber blushes, I try not to rethink the two-decade spacing of my two sons.
I am the first to concede that a lot has happened to the world — and my body — in that amount of time. However, instead of mourning the loss of my youth to teenage motherhood or my empty nest to an Advanced Maternal Age pregnancy, I start thinking about how mothering has changed for me.
When I was 20 years younger and 40 pounds lighter, I’d race my son up a long hill to the playground. Then we would swing as high as we could before jumping into the sandpit. Now, I get winded when I run up that hill. And I get nauseous when I swing too high. And I worry about breaking something when I jump anywhere, even out of bed.
When I was 20 years younger with 20/20 vision, toy assembly instructions came written in clear sentences and larger print. All the pieces were labeled using our base-10 number system. Maybe I walked away with a bloody knuckle or a headache, but never a leftover part. And, please tell me, for what universe are those “universal symbols” written?
“Are you experienced?” Jimi Hendrix once asked. You bet I am! I’ve been through it all. Potty training and training wheels. Pre-school and puberty. Broken bones and broken hearts. Drivers’ ed and sex education. Field trips and college tuition.
I’m in no way touting child-bearing at 40 as a panacea for perimenopause. It’s no Fountain of Youth. In fact, there are days when I’d swear my 11-year-old son is sending me to an early grave.
I certainly don’t have as much confidence in my looks, my cholesterol or my short-term memory as I once had. But when it comes to my ability as a mother, I am unshakable.
Sure, I have a lot more gray hair. But as my gray grew in, so did my patience. I might not always remember where I left my car keys. But I can always remember what to say when one of my children loses a game, a pet or a job. I can’t wear hip-hugger jeans any more. But I can still listen.
My waist has thickened, but so has my skin. That makes it easy to shake off the barber’s glancing blow to my ego.
Once out of the earshot, I can’t resist asking the only person whose opinion really matters, “Do you think I’m old, honey?”
Morgan looks puzzled, “You’re not old. You’re my Mom.”
We race to the car and head for the playground. The one with the hill.