I'm writing this out loud. I generally write my "I try" column on my way to work, hands-free in the car. I speak clearly into the voice-recording function of Gmail, saying the words "comma" and "period" out loud, which works beautifully until you need the word "comma" or "period," which you typically have to correct at your desktop.
It's a system that takes some getting used to, but I've been doing it since the start of the year, when I began my "I try" project, and I’m getting pretty good.
This morning I pulled out of my driveway while waving goodbye to my son, who is six, and who loves me as perfectly and completely as one person can love another. When he is up in the morning as I head out for the day, he "hugs me to the door," gripping my legs hard as I stutter-step the two of us out of each other’s lives for the day.
Today is his last day of kindergarten, and when I kissed him, I realized I would not come home to the same person. When I see him again, he will be in first grade.
I'm 50, and I had him when I was 44. My hospital chart referred to this as "advanced maternal age," but I have to say, I felt young, and I was very healthy. I had the meanest fetal medicine specialist in the world at the time, and she tortured me with worries about all the things that could go wrong, roughly advising me never to do this again. Meanwhile my regular obstetrician remain cheerful and positive. She said I should ignore the specialist and that I was doing fine. The results bore that out. Even so, I stopped with this child. My family was just the right size.
But now look at me. My eyes are all watery as I drive down the road, and I realize my son is not the only one who’s growing up today. I am no longer the mother of littles. I have a grade-school kid where the kindergartner used to be.
This means I have to give up a certain idea of myself. No one needs my help getting dressed. No one needs my help being fed. Everyone takes care of his own butt — and that’s one improvement, at least.
I can still get as many snuggles as I want. My boys give me an unending supply of hugs and kisses, and that’s generous, especially coming from the middle schooler, who is as big-hearted as they come.
Reading remains a treat for me and my younger child, though I’m sad to see his interest in Dr. Seuss waning. I could contemplate Sam and his weird eggs every night, really, as well as the enduring question: Is the ham green, too, or just the eggs? Should I trust the illustrations on this point?
And nightmares bring all of us close. No matter how old you are, you don’t want to suffer alone through nighttime fear, so you find your mom, you grip her neck, and all of a sudden you’re young again, and everything is going to be OK.
Today I said goodbye to the best kindergartner I know, and this evening I’ll nestle the sweet head of a newly minted first-grader. For now I tend to the tears of a “young” mom who is suddenly and permanently changed into something else entirely. There’s no more denying that fact.
I like being the age that I am, though I know it doesn’t sound that way. I joined the AARP at the very first solicitation, and I carry that red card in my purse. Somebody please show me where the bargains are.
One of the great adventures of getting older is finding new challenges to suit your new self, and new ways of being fully present in the world.
No one is going to cloak me in a cap and gown or hand me a little ribbon-tied rolled paper, but I’m graduating today, too.
Oh, the places I’ll go.