When I sat down to express what was on my mind, this isn’t exactly where I had planned on going, but this is where the words took me. Sometimes that just happens…I guess that just means I have more words for next time.
Mark Twain wrote, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I guess the key is to actually not mind that the matter of age is changing, and to also know that perspective is the key to controlling any matter—including age.
The topic of age arises constantly around me. “How long have you been teaching?” “When did you get married?” “How old are your kids?” “What year did you graduate?” “How long until your 40th birthday?” As I field these questions, I find myself referencing the “grown ups” as if I don’t belong to their club—to be honest, may days I wonder if I’ve learned their secret handshake. As my friends and I pass through some bigger decade markers, we talk about “getting old”, and if we feel as “grown up” as we should. Our discussions center around how our perspectives have changed (should we learn the secret handshake or make our own?), and it’s hard to know the perfect answer as we maneuver this tricky parenting gig. As parents, it seems like we should just know more.
Perspective is really the definition of age, isn’t it? And perhaps, perspective is really the art of knowing more. As children, every year promised new adventures and privaleges–be that double digits, sweet sixteen, or the legal age of accountability. As we obtained each one of those milestones, the mysteries behind them seemed to fade and tarnish. As young adults, every year brought hope that we would find those necessary experiences to finish school, add to resumes, and finally secure those first jobs. Yearly milestones began to slip into decades–decades that began to mark the time, and cause our mind to decide whether that extra time under our belt mattered.
My perspective changed when I became a Mom, and I began marking my children’s milestones in reference to my own. Walking each of my children to their first day of school, I remembered my first day. I remembered the worry, the excitement, and the unknown. I didn’t have to try very hard to literally feel all those things again—a gift and a curse. When they lose a tooth, I think of my own yellow, lacy tooth fairy pillow. Every Christmas morning as I watch the surprise on their faces, I think of how I snuck out of my room in the middle of the night to see the treasures Santa left. When they hurt themselves, I have a vast array of memories to call upon to feel their same pain, and can always give them tips on stitches, crutches, casts, splints, and plain ace bandages. Even the smell of sunscreen in the summer takes me back to year after year of sunburns—but more than the sunburns, I think of the fun I had with my family splashing in pools or digging at the beach. While the decades keep marking My time, I feel myself spending that time invested in those first Milestones again—but from my children’s perspective, and that time matters more to me than any time at all.