Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lumpy Oatmeal


This morning, the daycare program at my husband’s office posted a question on their Facebook page directed at over-40 parents: “What are the pros and cons of having children older vs. younger?” I’m sure there are dozens of factors that affect all parents differently, but for me, the answer to that question really comes down to one major con and one major pro.

The most obvious difference is that I have a lot less energy in my 40s than I did in my 20s. Especially now that I have a 14-month-old who STILL doesn’t sleep through the night consistently and a VERY active 3-year-old, my fatigue really affects me in a way that is more of a problem than I suspect it would have been twenty years ago. Back in college, I could easily go for weeks or even months at a time on 5 or 6 hours of sleep. No more. These days, if I don’t get 7 or 8 hours a night on a regular basis, I’m crabby (my husband will attest to this) and impatient (my kids will attest to this).

But the biggest advantage of having children older is also somewhat obvious, at least to me. There is a certain degree of calmness, acceptance, and patience (at least, there is when I’m getting some sleep) that I doubt I would have had in my 20s. Having twenty more years of experiencing life’s unexpected ups and downs has given me an ability to roll with the punches in a way I never could in my 20s. Very few people in their 20s fully understand the saying, “A lump in your oatmeal, a lump in your throat, and a lump in your breast are not the same lump. Get to know the difference.” I’ve experienced enough throat lumps and breast lumps, both personally and in those near and dear to me, to understand that most of my lumps in life – and particularly, in parenting - are just oatmeal.

In the past week – actually, now that I think about it, in the past three days – I’ve had to deal with crayon on the TV screen; stuffing pulled out of the couch; unexpected vomiting; unintentional shoplifting; refusal to eat; 2am crying jags (not mine – at least, not in the past three days); being kicked, punched, and bitten by my kids; full-scale public tantrums; and several pounds of birdseed ground into the carpet. I won’t go so far as to say that these things don’t drive me crazy, because they do. But age 43, I have the wisdom to step back, take a few deep breaths, and give the situation a little perspective before I deal with it. If I’d had to deal with these things at 23, I think there would have been a lot more personal 2am crying jags and possibly a public temper tantrum or two of my own. But not now. Because now I know that those are only lumps in my oatmeal. I’ll save the real stress-outs for those other lumps when they come along.


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