I don’t read Scary Mommy very often, but the few times I have, I’ve really enjoyed it. A few months ago the “Why You Should Be Friends With the Oldest Mother In Your Child’s First Grade Class” made its way around the Internet, and that was one of my favorites. I was fortunate enough to get to know the oldest mom in my daughter’s class last year, and one of my sisters-in-law is the oldest mother in her youngest child’s class, and they are both wonderful, and the article described them both so well. Old moms don’t judge. Truth. For the most part. What they do seem to do a lot of: help. Also, they are confident, especially if they have older children. They’ve been through all of this before, they know that whatever stupid thing you’re worrying about, they worried about, and it all turned out fine because her older son or daughter still turned out to be relatively normal, although the old mom will probably be very candid about what her older child or children are good at and are not good at, and will also probably offer you some rather candid advice based on cold, hard experience.
For all of these reasons, I love old moms. I look forward to one day being an old mom. One day I will take my baby to first grade, and maybe I’ll cry a little, because he’s my last one, but I’ll look around and see young moms about to lose it, and I’ll give some comfort and sage advice, and then I will walk slowly back to my car, or around the block, at least a little bit excited to have an entire day to do whatever I need or want to do without a little body attached to my own. Maybe I will offer to help a young mother struggling to lug a car seat up and down the stairs, or struggling to lift a tantruming toddler off the sidewalk. I will probably say something, without even a hint of smugness, like, “I’ve been there, can I bring you a coffee tomorrow morning?” I will drive home and take a shower in complete peace and quiet, and maybe I will even blow dry my hair when I get out. At least once, I will be a lady who lunches, and maybe I will even meet my husband and sip a glass of wine over some fancy plate of seafood as I contemplate whether to take a nap before I pick up the kids or to do some shopping.
Just kidding! I know life is not really like that for old moms. Old moms usually have older kids to worry about, and, as my grandma always says, “bigger kids, bigger problems.” Also, if by some miracle I do have that much free time, I will fill it with some other major project, or a series of minor projects, or I will get a big girl job, because otherwise I would lose my mind. I think one day with a nice long shower and leisurely lunch would be lovely, and maybe two days, or maybe even ten, but eventually, I would start wondering if life had any meaning, and then I would probably have to start another blog, or I would sit down to write a novel, and nobody wants that.
In the mean time, let me tell you why you should be friends with the young moms in your child’s first grade class, or the young mom who lives around the corner, or really any mom who has her hands full.
First, we try really, really hard. I know that seems and looks ridiculous to you, which you have probably made abundantly clear on many occasions, but we are new at this, and we want to get it right. Because we try really hard, we tend to have a lot of energy, and we want to get involved. Put us to work. Give us some guidance, and then let us do stuff. We are used to busy work and we are still used to the gross stuff, so take advantage. We are also still so used to not sleeping that we could withstand virtually any form of torture, if such a need arises.
Second, we also don’t judge. It may seem like we are judging, because sometimes while trying really hard, our enthusiasm gets the best of us, and we ask questions like, “Have you thought about doing it this way?” or “I actually just read an article that says X is a good way to accomplish Y.” We don’t offer these thoughts because we are judging (notice the spit up stains on our shoulders, the lumpy nursing bra peeking out of the same top we wore to drop off yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that), or because we think we know better, we just want to make sure we are doing everything the best possible way. Because we still worry and care about that. Because we don’t know any better.
We don’t know that it’s all going to be okay. It will help if you reassure us, but we still won’t know it. How could we? We are still figuring this whole parenting thing out, and as our oldest reaches each milestone, we breathe a small sigh of relief and then hold our breath while we wait for the next one. I know we are uptight and that can be annoying, but being a know-it-all can be sort of grating too, so we will all just have to learn to be a little bit tolerant.
Third, it is your duty as not-the-youngest to befriend us and to love us like the little sisters you never really wanted. You’ve been through it, you’ve come out the other side, and even if no one was kind enough to offer you any guidance, you know how much it would have helped. Tell us it will all be ok, one day, and that life is good on the other side. Tell us you are willing to listen to stories about middle-of-the-night baby insanity, because you understand that’s the only thing we have to talk about. Offer a sympathetic smile when we can’t remember the name of the street we live on, or what we were talking about twelve seconds ago, or the name of that meal people tend to eat early in the morning but we haven’t had time for in six months. And try not to roll your eyes when we attempt to make suggestions about alternative ways to do things, just gently explain why your way works better.
It will be worth it, I promise. You will have a loyal friend for life, and one day, we will be fun and interesting again. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or the next day, but one day, we will start to sleep a little bit more, we will realize our children are growing up into reasonably well-adjusted adults, and we will breathe one last final sigh of relief without anxiously looking for another reason to worry. You can help get us there faster, with more of our sanity intact, and when we do, we will buy you a nice bottle of wine, and invite you to our almost-clean homes for dinner, and we will talk about the good old days, back when our kids still thought we were cool, even if nobody else did. Maybe we will even visit you in the nursing home when your ungrateful children are too busy.