When I was younger, I constantly functioned at a “fast-forward” pace. I moved out of my parents’ house at 17. I got married in between my sophomore and junior year of college at the ripe old age of 20, and we added a baby into that mix when I was 24. I have always felt older than I really was, but could also fall back on not actually being all that old.
Until the shift happened. People began to catch up, move out, get married and have their own babies. Lots of us have mortgages now. Sports figures went from being in my peer group, to being younger than even my youngest sibling. I thought Bruno Mars’ Super Bowl performance was adorable, and I have had daydreams where I pat him on the head and tell him so. This seems to be a far cry from my strange but true attraction to David Grohl so many years ago. I have spent brain calls thinking about how the song “Thrift Shop” has some sound financial advice- popping tags can help with your monthly budget. Yes, I went from “playing old” to being old.
The kids don’t help. Between my own children, and the children I spent many years with in the classroom, I can map out every fine line on my face based on what horrified expression I was making at the time. “Why are you eating that??” which covers both toddlers and 4th graders, explains the three deep lines that would require more serious intervention should I choose to fix them. I snore now. My ankles pop. I fall asleep most nights by 10:15.
I ward off early induction into the AARP using that which is most available to me. Yes, like Mother Gothel and Repunzel, but with more love and a lot less hair, I use my kids to bring me eternal youth. A majority of the time, it is our job as parents to act like, well, parents. But in that wondrous tiny window of time, when you act like an idiot with your kids for the sake of fun, you earn back a few of those years this month’s heating bill is sucking away.
For example, walking to school in the morning is torture. No one can tear themselves away from Curious George fast enough to put on their coats; mittens are gone; lunchboxes are forgotten. I can feel time draining from my soul as I try to calmly assist one child in tying her shoes while telling her older sister that leggings aren’t pants and she needs to throw a skirt on in the next 30 seconds. But if I let them take the lead on the walk and participate instead of hide behind my iPhone screen, I can actually enjoy it too. They sing songs the entire way there like life’s one big Broadway show. I can tell them to stop and walk faster, or I can belt out a weird line about how their baby brother farted. One makes me feel mean; one helps me remember what it is like to think potty jokes are the best. I can’t always pick door #2 or we’d never get to school on time and inevitably I would get a note home about how my daughter is using inappropriate language, but sometimes I need to for them and for me.
Having young kids also gives you a chance to do over some of the things you missed out on as a child. When it comes to rides, I am afraid of everything- speed, heights, a particularly nasty looking carousel horse- you name it; I volunteered to hold your stuff while you rode it. Now, not wanting to show fear in front of my little people, I take baby steps into experiencing what is fun for so many. And sure, I may have cried a little on the balloon ride at Sesame Place- but I rode it. Second childhood, achieved.
Food is more fun when you are little because you have no idea what a calorie is and GMO might as well stand for Gross, More Onions! So forgetting that I actually have to make the food, meals can be fun when I stop monitoring bites and separating all elements of stew. With kids as an audience, I can do weird things like make hotdogs with the spaghetti stuck through it and everyone thinks it’s hilarious. Yes, balanced meals are important. But truth be told, I get more excited than my kids do about our monthly Happy Meals for movie night.
Reading with my oldest also sends me on a nostalgia trip right back to second grade. She pours over books I loved as a child- Little House, Nancy Drew, Matilda, Ramona. She talks about the characters like her own friends, which is funny because they are my old friends. If I can tear her away from her own books to read Harry Potter with me, I get sucked in all over again, despite knowing what will happen. She’s never seen the movies, so she has a million questions. She thinks Hermione ending up with a boy isn’t necessary and I nod along enthusiastically, like a peer instead of a mom for a minute.
Yes, I am older. Yes, a Mommyish commenter once said that they were in 4th grade in 1999, which sent me into a Diet Coke shame spiral. But for now, I can use those little moments provided by my kids to feel younger. I can throw snow balls; I can sing “Everything is Awesome” while walking around Target; I can make a mean Play-doh hamburger . I can grab that shopping cart and push it as fast as I can through the parking lot and laugh hysterically too. I can still feel young and fun despite the alarming amount of candles on my birthday cake. And I need to soak it in now- because someday they will be teenagers, and that’s probably going to kill me.