I know a mother who spent the better part of two decades having many children. She started having her kids in her early 20s, and continued to grow her family until she was in her 40s.
I once asked her, how is it different being a mother in your 40s than being a mother in your 20s?
She thought, and without missing a beat, answered.
“When you look at your baby in your 20s,” she said, “you look at the baby, like this,” and simulated cradling her arms close to her chest, about six-inches away from her face and line of vision.
“When you look at your baby in your 40s,” she said, “you look at the baby, like this,” and stretched out both arms in front of her, a good two-and-a-half feet away from her face and line of vision.
Clearly, she was joking about her age, and the change in her eyesight brought about by the years. What was once clear up close, now required a bit of distance to see.
This gave me a chuckle – I’ve yet to give in to wearing progressive lenses myself – but it also reminded me of something as practical as it is profound in parenting.
I’m reminded of another tale of a mother.
Several years ago when the children were younger, we traveled out of state to a family simcha. We stayed with our cousin, another mother who also had several children. She had a conundrum that she sought advice to resolve.
I was a mother of young children. She was an experienced mother, with children who were already married. She was even a young grandmother. She told me that she was going to call her daughter, who was in her 20s, to get her daughter’s take on the situation.
That surprised me. After all, wasn’t she the mother, and shouldn’t she know how to handle a situation? And why would she ask her daughter? Why not another mother? Or, someone who was her peer; someone closer to her age?
It wasn’t until much later when I had my own situation and I turned to my own daughter, to ask her opinion on something, that I realized how naïve I was to assume that a mother had all the answers and that a daughter couldn’t possibly help.
One artist I admire is the American artist, Chuck Close, a painter and photographer who achieved fame as a photorealist through his massive-scale portraits. Chuck Close is known for using creative and intricate patterns to portray a human portrait. Seeing his work is an experience in perspective.
Stand close to a Chuck Close portrait and what you see is the grid he uses to create the work. The individual dots or color that don’t make that much sense, but are intriguing.
Take a few steps away. Then a few steps more. Take enough steps away from the canvas, and what emerges is a cogent and dramatic portrait of someone the artist captured. You can see all the dots blend into a face from a distance.
So here I am. At the foot of new phase in my motherhood: the teenage years. (Where’s the manual?)
How clueless was I, or better yet, how incredulous were the kids when I recently suggested they go to the movies on a recent vacation day, offering that “Alvin and the Chipmunks 4: The Road Chip” was playing at a nearby theater?
Is my daughter now shopping my closet?
When did I become the shortest person in my family?
And this is just the beginning.
The road to their independence is not that long, and I imagine there will be plenty of bumps along the way.
How to navigate?
Maybe fast forward, and imagine what will be in years to come.
Hopefully, it will all be good.
And then, get a little perspective.