My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Growing Up and Growing Old

2006-02-28

This whole getting-old thing is...well...getting old.

This morning on the way to work, I passed the YMCA. Their marquee read "Only 4 months 'til summer! Sign up for swim classes now!"

Only four months until summer?

Only four months until I turn 40.

I was born on the first day of summer, a fact I have always relished. I mean, born on the Summer Solstice (unless you're one of those who moves it up a day to the 22nd)! How cool is that? Very cool.

But not this year. Because this year, I leave my thirties behind. My twenties are but a dim memory (though, frankly, you couldn't pay me to be 25 again). But, my thirties! I liked them. Here's what I've accomplished in the last decade: bought 2 houses and sold 2 houses, got more professional-type jobs (ooh, I now have a "career"!), gave birth to 2 children, wrote a novel and started another. Not too shabby, I guess.

How bad is this getting-old thing getting?

Yesterday, my student worker called me "ma'am." Ma'am, for christ's sake! I told her to quit it, that I hoped the day never came when I would feel like a ma'am. She laughed. But, she was raised with manners so I'm sure it's too late to change her now.

But, my birthday was actually a fluke determined by my mother's obstetrician's vacation schedule. According to my mother, the OB (whose name was Dr. Bones!) wanted to get this pregnancy "out of the way" before he went on vacation so my mother was induced and...voila! Here I am!

So, you can perhaps understand why I'm so often grumpy and out of sorts not only did I not ask to be born, but I didn't even get to choose the day of my birth! A man made that determination. Hope he enjoyed his vacation.

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And, as I get old, so do my kids. Which is both exciting and sad. I mean, I like them just the way they are each day so why do they need to get older? On the other hand, I can't wait to see what they're going to be like when they're older. I can't wait to see what kind of kid Red will be, what Dusty will be interested in by the time she's six and seven and eight (she's already informed me that she wants a chemistry set for her sixth birthday.). Not that I can stop them damn it! from growing up. From growing away from me.

I'm of mixed emotions about what I should and should not protect Dusty from at her age and level of maturity and intelligence. For example, there was no way in hell I would have told her how her friend Ruby died. Because, what good would that have done? None. It would only have confused and frightened her. Children just don't need to know about all the various horrific things people can do to each other. On the other hand, I don't think I should necessarily protect her against the world to the degree that she thinks everyone's as nice as Santa. That's not good parenting. So, where do you draw the line?

On Monday (I had the day off and enjoyed just puttering around the house), she came home from preschool and said she had something a secret to tell me. In her room. And she didn't want her daddy to hear. What she told me was that on NPR (which is played during naptime) there was a story about a woman who killed her children she pushed them into a lake. I imagine what she heard was some recent news about Andrea Yat3s. She said, "I guess she just didn't like her children, to do that." I was caught off-guard. This was not at all what I'd expected to be told. And, I'm not sure why she didn't want her dad to hear but I did my best to explain that sometimes people's brains don't work well, that their brains get sick and make them do things they wouldn't otherwise do. I said I was sure that this woman loved her children but she was not well, her brain wasn't, when she did this. This seemed to satisfy Dusty and we changed the subject and she had a bath.

My first thought, upon reflection, was to have a discussion with the preschool director about how NPR might not be the most appropriate thing for the children to listen to at naptime. And, I still may do this. On the other hand, how long can we really expect to protect our children from the real world? If Dusty has loving parents and is a secure and happy child, can information about our world whether good or bad harm her? If things are explained to her and put in proper context? I don't know the answer to this, I'm just posing the question. It's an internal dialogue I have with myself: am I wussing out and being a bad parent by not demanding that the preschoolers listen to something "more appropriate"? Is that negligence? Or, by doing so, am I overreacting and being over-protective, shielding my child from what's around her? At what point can you no longer shield them from reality? Dusty starts kindergarten in September and will become much more acquainted with the world around her. As she gets older, her world view will expand and include all kinds of things I'd rather her not know but that she probably needs to be aware of. I don't want to tie the apron strings knots so tight that she's strangled by them, nor do I want to cut them off altogether.

Dusty seemed to be okay with my answer to why a mother would drown her own children and it's not a lie. Clearly Miss Yat3s was suffering from severe post-partum psychosis. It's the rare mother who purposefully kills her own children. But, I always worry whether I do Dusty a disservice by telling her too much or not enough. I think I hope I hit the right note here. She told me what she heard, I gave her a straight-forward answer, she went off satisfied with that answer and the subject didn't come up again. It could, though, it could. It wasn't something I'd brought up (nor would I ever) but something she'd discovered by being off in the world, growing up.

This child raising thing is getting tricky. I hope, in my advanced old age, I'm up for the task.

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12:21 p.m. ::
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