Seven(ty) year itch…

My mother recently turned 70.  Since there is 30 years difference between she and I we both enter a new decade during the same year.  When I asked her how it felt to be 70 she replied, “It’s strange.  I just don’t FEEL 70.”  And I get that…because I can honestly say that when I think about the fact that I’m turning 40 this year, the same thought goes through my head.  “I just don’t FEEL 40.”  Similarly, my 8-year-old daughter, Laney, was recently looking at the baby and said…”It makes me feel weird to think I was that little once.”

Her comment made me laugh at the time but I think it’s the same emotion my mother was describing.   It’s weird that the souls that inhabit my children’s bodies are constant, for lack of a better word.  Life’s experiences will shape them and their personalities, but a day will come, more quickly than any of us can fathom, that they will sit in a room surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and say…”it’s strange…I just don’t FEEL 70.”

Personally, I think this fact takes some of the proverbial heat off of this parenting ride.  I mean, if they “are who they are,” isn’t it just our job to present them with as much positive life experience as we can, shield them from harm and then just observe how that person takes on a new role with their growing bodies?  Wouldn’t our stress be so much less if we could just release the idea that we somehow “control” the human outcome?

Of course I’m not talking about the effect of abuse or neglect and what that can do to the human spirit…that’s the extreme.  I’m more referencing the fact that even though Avery, my nine year old, loves horses and wants to take horseback riding lessons, waiting a year isn’t going to drastically alter the course of her life.  Even though her blue eyes can fill with tears to the PERFECT amount so that the fluid fills to very edge of the lower eyelids.  Even though that when I tell her that driving 30 minutes with a newborn to take her to horseback riding lessons isn’t happening this year, those same eyes have the ability to allow a single, perfectly shaped tear to spill over and ever so dramatically trickle down her cheek in academy award winning style.   If her inner person is behind those eyes just watching this whole thing play out, I don’t have to add a check mark to the “reasons my kids will need therapy” list that I keep in my head as she turns and walks away, shoulders slumped, murmuring about how hard it is to be the oldest child.

At times like that, I just need to reassure myself that I’m doing the best I can…and hope that someday she looks back and knows that.  Or…I need to smile and know that someday, she’ll look into the eyes of her child and have to say something disappointing to them and hope she remembers that she can’t control it all but that they will be just fine.

Life happens, the years pass and birthdays continue to surprise us with the numbers that accompany them despite their predictability.  I imagine that’s why 70 doesn’t have a “feel”…it’s too similar to all the decades that have passed before it.

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