You are the perfect age ... today
My daughter recently turned the ripe old age of 24. I have been thinking about what it would be like to be that young again. Many people would think she is the perfect age! Interestingly, she e-mailed me on her birthday and said, “Mom, 24 sounds too old - I've decided that I am turning 22 today instead!” I really didn't have a response since I recently turned 29 (for the 26th time)! I teach a class about human development across the life-span. The course studies emotional, social, and physical development from conception to death. We recently discussed “perfect age” and throughout the week my students asked their friends, family, and neighbors this question:
If you could be any age, how old would you be and why?
Following are the results:
• Age 8: I want to be 10 so I am in the double-digits
• Age 10: I want to be 13 so I can finally be a teenager
• Age 13: I want to be 16 so I can drive and date
• Age 16: I want to be 18 so I can go to college
• Age 18: I want to be 23 so I can get out of college
• Age 23: I want to be 28 so I can be married and have a baby
• Age 28: I want to be 35 so I don't have to change diapers anymore
And on and on it goes…
Most of us are wishing our lives away! When we're young, we want to be old. When we're old, we want to be young. Perhaps the “perfect age” is the age we are today!!
I remember being a young, overwhelmed mother changing diapers. I really wanted those babies to stop spitting up on me, and I really wanted to stop changing diapers. I also remember the toddler years at our home with the constant clutter and handprints on the sliding glass door. I really wanted my kids old enough to stop spilling milk on the floor, and I really wanted them to be able to cut up their own food.
Oh, I remember the early teen years. I can't count how many times I heard the door slam and watched my darling daughter roll her eyes at me! I never knew when a new tear - or a new scowl - would appear on the face of those teenagers. I couldn't wait for them to “get a little older!” I also couldn't wait for them to drive themselves to the endless string of piano lessons and various practices. Then I remember the years when my teens were out driving past dark and I had to stay up and worry. When they finally did arrive home at midnight, with a carload of friends they played video games all night long. It was loud, and I couldn't sleep. I remember longing for a full night's sleep. I knew that someday I would find joy in waking up to a kitchen without dishes, soda cans and pizza boxes littering the countertops!
I also remember spending years wishing my hair was a little longer or a little shorter. I wanted it curly, and I couldn't wait until it was straight again. I thought next year would be better when I was in better shape. I knew next year would be better when …???
I believe that women have a tendency to “wish” for next month or next year! I wish I hadn't wished some of those glorious years away. I wish I had not always wanted something better or something different. I spent entirely too much time thinking next year would be better - whatever that meant!
And do you know what I do now?
I often wake up in the middle of the night (that same full night's sleep I longed for years ago) and wished I could change a diaper or burp one of my children. I wish my sliding glass door was not always so clean. I don't even think I would mind running the “mom taxi” each afternoon to the various events and activities. Several days ago, I asked my high school son if I could drive him to practice. He looked at me like I was from another planet!
I have two children who are grown and do not live in my home anymore. I really miss waiting up for them, and I wish I could wipe away every new tear that appeared on their faces.
I find it strange that years ago I wanted to be a little older so that things would be a little better. And today I would like to be a little younger so that things could be a little better. Why do I do this?
I am ever-so-slowly learning about being the “perfect age” each day of my life. Today I am the perfect age!
Today I feel privileged to have my “baby” - yes, he is 17 - still at home! I love it when his friends all come to my house at midnight. I love listening to them play video games and cooking pizza all night. I actually get excited when I wake up and am able to witness the fun they had. Just so you know ... the amount of fun is determined by how many pizza boxes and soda cans are evident!
My hair is a great length (I am a cancer survivor - so every day is a good hair day!) I am in good enough shape and today is a good day. I am learning!
I love this little saying about a woman's lifeline:
• Age 3: She looks at herself and sees a queen
• Age 8: She looks at herself and sees Cinderella
• Age 15: She looks at herself and sees an ugly duckling and says, “Mom, I can't go to school looking like this today!”
• Age 20: She looks at herself and sees too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly, but decides she is going out anyway.
• Age 30: She looks at herself and sees too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly, but decides she doesn't have to fix it so she's going out anyway.
• Age 40: She looks at herself and sees too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly, but says, “At least I am clean,” and goes out anyway.
• Age 50: She looks at herself and says, “I am what I am,” and goes and does whatever she wants.
• Age 60: She looks at herself and reminds herself of all the people who can't even see themselves in the mirror anymore. She goes out and conquers the world.
• Age 70: She looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter, and ability and goes out and enjoys life.
• Age 80: Doesn't bother to look. Just puts on a purple hat and goes out to have fun with the world. On her way out the door, she wishes she had grabbed the hat years earlier.
OK, ladies this is our challenge...
Grab your hat today - be it a chauffeur's hat, a baseball cap (because you haven't had time to shower this week), a chef's hat, or your purple hat. You are the perfect age today - find a hat that fits and go for it!
Christina Hawkey is a professor of family studies at Arizona Western College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.