Okay: we’ve seen the ultrasound pictures. It’s official: my daughter is pregnant. My first-born baby girl, who cannot possibly be old enough to be a mother, is going to have a baby sometime in early December. Hello, Jane, this is real life! Take it in: Lizzie is actually a grown woman, married to a very sweet grown man, and now she is going to have a real baby. As you can see, I’m having trouble believing this. But don’t get me wrong: all this difficulty getting my brain to believe the news does not mean I’m not excited. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. I may have moments of worrying about her nutrition or her labor or her financial state (because babies turn into expensive little beings), but the overwhelming emotion in my heart and soul is complete and total excitement because, here’s the real important news: I’m going to be a grandmother!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (It’s all about me!)
Come December, there is going to be a little baby in our family, and that wonderful thought blocks out all my worries about anything (I know: this kind of thinking has gotten me in trouble in the past!). Best of all, this baby is one I won’t have to stress over so much (the way I obsessively did with our 4) because I won’t be responsible in a sleepless night kind of way for this baby’s reading ability or spirituality or even its dental health! My only job will be to love it and love it and love it some more! How amazing and wonderful is that?
Enough said for now. I’ll just share a picture of my girl when she herself was a baby, a mere 26 years ago, so you can share my amazement about this event. Stay tuned! I have a feeling I’m going to be blogging about this event a lot!
P.S. Tom says I never mention him in the blog, so I will report this: Gramps is pretty excited himself!!!!! And, by the way, that’s Tom on the floor in the picture, showing the effects of sleepless nights with Lizzie, the miraculous baby who never slept. (I wonder what her baby will be like! Is she in for some karma? Mean , mean grandmother!!).
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It’s gotta just be the work of the big engine in the sky that speeds up time as you get older. I know that, for the first year of our children’s lives, time crawled along. It was slowed down by sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, worries about nuclear war and kidnappings–or about dropping the baby or not getting the car seat put in the car correctly. Then, for about the next 5 to 10 years, it managed to move a little faster, but it was still kept in its place by dumb homework assignments, school sports events, and endless worries about everything. But ever since all four of our kids hit ages where I no longer have to worry obsessively about every detail of their lives—these ages where they are pretending to be grownups!—time seems to have jumped right onto the fast track. And it won’t let up for a minute.
So now, my son, Parker, who started out as a little, chunky, always meditative boy, fondly referred to as “our Buddha baby,” is not only 6 foot 6 or 7 inches (but who’s counting?), but he’s graduating from college!! Forgive me if I just cannot take it in. Maybe if I scream it out: “Parker is graduating from college, World!” Nope. Didn’t work.
All I can say is, “How in the hell did this happen?”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the passage of time, in these weeks leading up to July 7th, when my first-born, Lizzie, will be getting married. I know I’ve written about this before, but did I mention how hard it is for me to believe that the baby girl who came struggling into the world after 30 hours of labor, breaking her collar bone on the way, is old enough to get married? Did I happen to say how it makes me feel like I must have stepped into a time machine and swooshed through several decades, landing, almost without breathing, in the present? After all, if it came right down to it, and I had to describe my own awareness of time, I’d have to say that it seems—really—like only a few years ago, ten at the most, that she was little. There is no way—absolutely none—that she could really be twenty-four, due to turn twenty-five a week after her wedding!
I keep having this weird feeling, where I kind of expect her to finish this game she’s been playing. After all, when she was five years old, she loved to pretend that she was a singing and dancing Senorita named Conchita, and she had a father named Miguel, so maybe this whole wedding deal is really just another one of her fantasies, after all. It could happen!
The weirdest part is I can remember when she was a baby—when I was doing a lot of nursing and rocking and diaper-changing. And I can remember the most recent five years. But I really can’t remember too clearly, except in a vague, fog-brain sort of way, the years in between. All I know is that they involved lots of Halloween costumes, lost permission slips, and school supplies that required frantic trips to K-Mart at five minutes before closing.
I have something to say to new parents: write everything down that you can—because, believe it or not, no matter how fresh it all seems now, there will come a day when you can’t remember the stuff your child said or did at 2 or 4 or 10. If, like me, you have more than two children, and if you are lucky enough to have a few cute stories still in your head, you may even have trouble sorting out which cute story belongs to which child! But, no matter what, there will be a few memories that won’t quit. And some of those came up tonight—as I sat here, drowning in my proverbial beer—and wishing I could stop time in its rotten tracks.
For instance, I remember vividly when Lizzie said her first word, pointing to a vase on the table of a little neighborhood restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee and saying “Flou–ah.” I remember one of the first times we took her to church—since we were sadly negligent, she was 3 years old—and she looked up at the cross over the altar and said, “Mama, why is there a “T” up there?” And I can really get blubbery when I think about the time she was tested for Kindergarten “readiness” and asked by the principal to say the letters “ABCDE.” She whizzed right through that part. “Now say them backwards,” he said, at which Lizzie turned her back to the poor dumb fool and said, “ABCDE” again!
Finally, I keep thinking about the way, at four or five, she loved to sing the story of her life—and mine—as she came down the stairs in the morning: “Now I’m walking down the stairs, and my Mama’s in the kitchen, and she’s cooking me some food,” she would sing, “and I’m happy happy happy ”—all to her own, made up tune.
I’ll stop, before I get maudlin. I just warn all of you out there who haven’t experienced it yet: this wedding business is no piece of cake. But the stress of planning a wedding doesn’t come only from all the details that are involved. And it doesn’t even come from the worry that you won’t look good in your mother-of-the-bride dress (although that is one of the more difficult parts).
And, finally, if you are really lucky—as we are—it doesn’t come from worry about your new son-in-law, who, in our case, is a sweet and wonderful guy. Nope. What really gets you, in the end, is realizing that, maybe for the first time since that baby came into your life, she really is actually walking out that door, on her own, into a place where you are no longer needed, in any sort of absolute, parental duty sort of way. To all intents and purposes, she is actually choosing to be on her own now, living in her own, brand-new little family. Partly, that makes you want to bust with happiness for her. And partly, it just makes you feel a little worn out by the shock of arriving so quickly at the end of this particular road you thought you were going to be running on forever.
I guess, if we are lucky, this exciting new life of hers will occasionally involve her “aged P’s”—the term my mother stole from Dickens to describe herself and my father and which I now proudly give to myself and my husband—but, still, in the back of my mind, there is that clincher: from now on, it is no longer our shared life story that Lizzie will be singing.
Our dear friend Fatimah’ has been caring for her elderly parents for many years. We thank her for sharing her experience with us. Here is her story:
I offer my heartfelt congratulations to each of you—to each of us—for at some point on your journey, you may become a Proud & Gratified Parent of a Parent. Ladies 50-plus, you are my sistah’s in many an unknown way. Thus the subject and title of my first sharing with Oops 50!
Yes, indeed, one of my highlights in life is having the honor of caring for my parent(s). For those whose parents are still with us, I say again, “Congratulations!” And, for the parents gone on, “Thank you!” Some of my friends say that I have a lot to share regarding the honorable role of care-taking for a parent. And I just might agree. Here is my first 50cents on the subject.
Over the years, I have had, and am still having, powerful transformative experiences through caring for both of my parents. My mom (R.I.P) was challenged with dementia, but this little, yet extremely powerful lady was with us until she was 98.
My pape’ is still with me at the tender age of 105. One thing that’s for sure – the role of parent is not an easy one.
I have come to realize (considering my parents’ ways, ideas, beliefs, habits & histories) they did absolutely the very best they could for me. From the time I was a little girl until high school, my mom and I had some moments, mainly to remind me that she was the boss, the goddess, the doer, the artist, the one who stuggled. I now know that within those ‘who’s boss’ experiences, she was empowering me—by standing in her own power. Little did I know then that her ground rules were roots for my survival – her creative gifts, food for my soul. Her fierceness was my foundation for growth and empowerment.
My pape’, a gentle man indeed, has his ways, beliefs, history and experiences too. Pape’ and I flow 97% of the time with ease. The few confrontations we’ve had only began as he got older and realized that his physical self and gentlemanly ways were changing. His man-ness, too, was shifting.
So, from then to now, what have I gained through the honorable role of being ‘A Proud & Gratified Parent of a Parent’ –that makes me congratulate myself…in gratitude? I’ll start with some critical words for me:
Allow, Trust, Remember, Stand,
Give Choice, Be Responsible, Respect, Create Authenticity,
Our oldest daughter, Lizzie, who is 24 years old, walked in the other night and announced that she and her boyfriend, Janson, had just gotten engaged! We had a feeling this was coming. (Janson had already told us both that he loved our daughter and was not going anywhere.) And yet, now that it has, I’m finding myself a little floored by the news. I’ve been hearing voices in my head: “She’s too young!” “Do they know what they’re doing?” “I’m too young for this!” I feel as if I’ve aged overnight—and I’m not quite ready!
It’s not that I’m not happy about the news—or that we think it’s happening too fast. Lizzie met Janson last summer, and he’s a wonderful guy—with a great sense of humor—who has found his way easily right into our hearts. She met him through a friend of hers—at a time when she was not expecting to meet anyone. Isn’t that how it always happens? And they hit it off instantly. He seems perfect for Liz: their temperaments are compatible; they love each other; they share many of the same values. What more could we ask for?
It’s just that, once all this happened—and after I’d come down from the cloud of excitement—I realized that maybe I wasn’t prepared for our baby girl to be taking this next step. First of all, it seems impossible that she could be old enough. After all, just a minute ago, she was only four years old! I keep thinking of “Fiddler on the Roof” and Tevye’s song: “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older. When did they?” How in the world did she get to be 24 so quickly? And how in the universe could I be old enough to have a daughter old enough to get married?
How quickly these big, momentous things happen! I guess that’s the terrifying thing: life is always faster-moving and less predictable than you think it is when you’re stuck down in the weeds, dealing with the day-to-day mess. In any case, it’s great. They are great! And I’m going to have a share a picture of the cute couple, so people can see how darling they are!
I’m sure I’ll get used to this soon. I know one thing: no matter how long it takes me, I’ll adjust sooner than Tom (my husband), who has been laid flat out on the floor!!