I’ve got a birthday coming up. The big 3-9. An age that can no longer be classified as “mid-30s” and is one slippery year away from the once-dreaded 40.
Mostly, I’m fine with that.
I haven’t worried too much about my age other than noticing the slow but steady weakness of my eyes (why are the directions on the cough medicine so TINY all of a sudden?) and the increased soreness of certain muscle groups after any form of exercise (if playing volleyball hurts your hip does that mean you’re playing it wrong?).
I’ve loved my 30s far more than I did my 20s, so I can only assume my 40s will be even better. After all, I’m cruising through the end of the diaper years (12 years of diapers is no joke, y’all), we’re pretty settled in our careers and home, we’ve gathered a strong village around us, and there are lots of things coming toward us to look forward to.
So, for the last month or so, as I got closer and closer to my birthday, I wasn’t concerned at all. As a matter of fact, I usually make fun of my husband who has been calling himself 40 for years—even though we’re the same age.
And then . . . yesterday happened.
I dropped my youngest son off in his preschool class and walked out of the room anticipating a few hours without distraction to get some work done. As I was getting ready to sign my son in on the roster outside his class, another mom walked up in front of me. She was distracted by pushing a baby in a stroller while a young boy my son’s age clung to her legs, so I didn’t bat an eye when she scooted in front to sign her son in. She looked up and immediately apologized, but, really, it was no problem. After all, I wasn’t in a hurry.
We started up a conversation about our boys and how cute it is when they talk about each other, and she asked if I had any other kids.
“Oh sure, I have three older girls and my son is my youngest.”
“That’s great, are they in school?”
“Yes, two are in elementary and the oldest is in junior high.”
Her eyes got big. “Wow. My oldest is in kinder this year.”
Her OLDEST is in KINDERGARTEN.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I looked around at some of the other parents. Babies in strollers. Pregnant bellies and cute maternity clothes. Not one knee brace or pair of reading glasses in sight.
And my mind flashed back to those days when I would walk my oldest to kindergarten. I would load my two littles in our double stroller and walk my “big” kid down the street, past the park, and to the front door of our neighborhood elementary school.
One day, while I was waiting outside for her to come out to head back home, I got into a conversation with an older lady. She had streaks of gray in her pretty brown hair and wasn’t participating much in the conversation about playgroups and The Little Gym among the young moms surrounding us. Since I’ve never done well with playgroups and mostly avoided them like they would give me leprosy, I figured she was my people.
It turns out she was there picking up her youngest, and her older child was in the junior high school farther down the street.
I remember thinking to myself, Whoa. She’s waaay older than me.
I couldn’t imagine having a kid that old and still having to walk to kindergarten. I wondered if people ever mistook her for her daughter’s grandmother.
So as I stood there yesterday in our preschool building, talking to this lovely young mom about the friendship developing between our two boys, I felt every single second of my almost 39 years.
I felt every knee pop and laugh line. Every covered gray hair and slowing metabolism.
I felt the worry that when I drop my son off for kindergarten in a couple of years there will be a mom walking her two littles who will wonder if I’m the grandma.
But you know what?
I also felt the weight of experiences—good, bad, horrible and wonderful. Exciting, terrifying, hard and stretching. The experiences that have taught me and grown me, tested me and sharpened me.
I felt the cumulative hours of prayer after the realization that control wasn’t really mine—and shouldn’t be.
I felt the contentment that comes from knowing that even though there are things I still want to do, I like who I am right now.
So although it’s weird—feeling like the oldest mom at preschool—it’s also pretty freeing to know that 39 is just a number.
And, for the most part, it seems like a pretty good number to me.
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