Monday, September 3, 2012

The Critical Mom's Guide to How To Be An Older Mom

I am old enough to be the mother, occasionally the grandma, of the other mommies who congregate daily in the schoolyard.  I am often the only happily married one, at least judging by the way they like to complain about their husbands, and that is my biggest secret from them.  They are mostly in their twenties, these mommies who might as well be aliens from my point of view, although a few of the older ones are in their thirties, and one or two are in their forties.  Not one of them regularly inspires a schoolchild to cry, "Hey, your grandma's here to pick you up!" when I go to get my third-grader. So here are some basics:

 (1) Expect to feel out of it. While the other mommies are discussing how many windows they washed that morning, or wondering why you have cucumbers and radishes poking out of your shopping bag, because those things take too long to peel, you smile and say you enjoy your vegetables, then stick your nose back in Operation Shylock and forget all about them.

 (2) Don't look for soul mates among them. Throughout kindergarten and first grade, my younger son's best friend--an incredibly smart and sweet little boy--was the son of an ancient out-of-work drunk and a mail-order bride of some twenty summers (perhaps younger) from a third-world country.  She had incredible pluck and I admired her, but oh, were we different.  She did hang out for coffee, and I relied for conversation on the one topic that unifies all women: fashion.

(3) Enjoy your marriage.  Very often, you will be the only mommy still married among your children's friends, or the only happily married one.  Tune out when the other mommies on the playground complain, and don't let on that you're still having a good time.  They'd forgive you about as much as they'd forgive their mothers.

(4) Once in a while, shock them.   When the twentysomething year olds were sitting around wondering about a certain kindergarten teacher whom we had all dubbed "Fraulein Rottenmeier," after the governess in Heidi, who was at best exactingly strict and at worst menacing, I said, "My generation would have said she needs to get laid."  To my amazement, they had never thought of this, and laughed until they choked.

(5) Stay young:  go get some exercise--lots of it!  Eat right and spend all the time you want with your husband.  What the tabloids call "quality time," a pretty euphemism for the best time in the world.  And that means romance, too.  A couple we know told us they didn't celebrate Valentine's Day, and I didn't believe it until we happened to visit them one Valentine's Day.  We witnessed the husband come home from work, present his wife with a rose, and--just as she was oohing and ahhing and saying what a wonderful surprise, and looking delighted--inform her that there'd been two roses in the trash at work, and he didn't want them to go to waste, so he handed one to a colleague and brought one home to her.  She cast a wry look in our direction and managed not to burst into tears in front of us.  My husband and I held hands all the way home, and thanked our lucky stars that we were not in that state. 

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