I was never one to pay attention to my age. I’ve never really cared about that kind of thing. I’m not into fashion, so whether an outfit made me look older or younger or was “appropriate for someone my age” was never an issue. I’ve never worn make-up or tried to hide my wrinkles or frown lines, either. I’m not vain, and frankly, if I didn’t even have a mirror in my house, I probably wouldn’t notice.
Unlike lots of my friends, I never had a problem with milestone birthdays, and I’ve always been happy to truthfully answer people who ask me what my age is. I don’t know why, but numbers just don’t speak to me that way. At 52, I’m happily married, loving my life, and very content with who I am.
Or so I thought until last May. That’s when my 21-year-old daughter graduated from college.
Both she and my older daughter, who graduated from college two years prior to that, are now comfortably living back in the nest, exactly where my husband and I love them to be. They are independent, yet love sharing their experiences with us. We still honestly enjoy each other’s company, and we purposefully go on vacations together because we love those special times of having it be just the four of us.
The girls work full-time, go out with their own friends, and have matured very nicely into delightful women, but if they could afford to move out and wanted to do so, that would be truly fine with us. My husband and I support the fundamental idea that the parents’ job is to give their child roots, then give the child wings; after all, it’s the natural order of things, so to speak, but financially, that’s really difficult in the area where we live, so for now, we are back to our little nuclear family unit, the same as it was before the girls went to college.
Except one thing is different. I’m no longer the mother of students. I’m the mother of grown children.
The designation that everyone I know uses is “adult children” – and I hate it. I never felt old before in my life. I felt mature maybe, but not old.
I got married and felt grown up. I bought a house and felt grown up. I think when I hired my first contractor, that’s when I really felt grown up, but I still didn’t feel old.
I had babies who grew into children who went to school, danced competitively, learned to ski, and made nice friends, and I was right there with them as backstage mom, room parent, PTO president, and taxi driver, but this mom didn’t get old; she got “experienced.”
Other moms called me for advice or information, but that didn’t make me old; it made me “wise.” I sent my kids off to college and proudly watched as the first one graduated, but I still had one in the midst of her university experience, so I was still “a mom of a student,” which put me in the same club as so many parents I met at orientation, Parents’ Weekend, or awards ceremonies.
Since so many of them still had younger kids at home, I clearly was the same age as they were, right?
And then, last May, as we watched the final graduate in the processional file out of the stadium, and as we packed up the last of my daughter’s belongings from her dorm room, it hit me like a train – I don’t have “students” any longer. My kids are adults, and the parents of adults are…old.
Even now, when I think of my daughters, it doesn’t matter that they are employed, pay their own car insurance, or do the grocery shopping, nor does it matter that they still count on us to help them navigate their medical insurance, work the barbeque, or pay their taxes.
That is all a natural progression, after all, and that feels normal to me. For whatever reason, though, for me, it’s all about the fact that they aren’t in school anymore. This is what makes me feel like I’ve crossed some invisible line into Geezer Land.
I’m now eligible to live in an adult community, meaning families without kids in school, and that’s clearly for old people. My dues category at my temple changed to “no kids in college,” and that is for the elderly, too. The AARP card didn’t bother me, nor did the first colonoscopy, but this “adult children” thing is just doing quite a number on my psyche.
I still don’t put on concealer to cover my wrinkles, and I don’t color my hair, either, but I consciously try to avoid telling people that my kids have graduated college. After all, only old people have adult children.
Jodi Coburn, a middle school writing tutor, lives in New England with her Prince Charming, two incredible daughters, two Labrador retrievers, and a rat. She believes that networking with other parents , especially in the parking lot after a PTO meeting, was the key to her sanity while her kids were growing up.