Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Parenthood is for the Young. (But “Young-At-Heart” Parents Probably Need Red Bull Supplements)

Talked to my mom last night. She and Dad just returned from Milwaukee where they were visiting my sister, brother-in-law and 6-1/2-year-old niece, Chloe. Mom didn’t say so, but I suspect she was relieved to be sitting in their quiet family room listening to the clock tick, drinking a glass of wine and rocking in her rocking chair. She said they had a good time, but that she’d had her fill of board games like “Chutes and Ladders” and that Chloe has “a LOT of energy!”

Well, that’s a 6-1/2-year-old’s job. Kids that age run around like crazy people trying to burn off all that energy. Their secret mission is to make us adults feel even older than we are. We clearly doubt we ever possessed that much energy and we drink Red Bull-laced espresso by the gallon to try and keep up. But we know it’s a hopeless situation so we start thinking it would be a very good time for a nap. And, yes, rocking chairs begin to have an appeal we’d never noticed before.

That’s why parenthood is best left to the young. Oh, I know there are pros and cons. I have friends my age who were young parents and I also have friends the same age who are still doing the parenting thing with babies and toddlers.

The people who were young parents say that they raised their kids when they had the energy to do it and now that their kids are grown and on their own, they have the opportunity to “live life while they’re still relatively young.”

The older or “young-at-heart” parents, on the other hand, tell me that they are now more mature and able to raise their kids with wisdom – not to mention that their bank accounts are, perhaps, a little more stable than they might have been when they were younger.

All I know is that for me, personally, I prefer being the cool “friend of” mom or grandma. Yes, I had my moments of biological clock craziness when I desperately wished for a child. But those moments passed quite some time ago. Don’t get me wrong – I love cuddly babies and I sometimes look at them a little wistfully. I marvel at their tiny fingers and toes and sweet baby clothes and adorable little toothless grins and heavenly baby smells. Well, at least until it’s diaper changing time. Then their smells are not quite so heavenly and I’m a little less wistful and a little more relieved that the diaper-changing isn’t my responsibility.

The mere thought of being a new parent at this stage in my life would be enough to cause panic. Oh, I know that if God decided to demonstrate His sense of humor and gave me the opportunity to become the ‘voice of experience’ in these matters, I’d embrace motherhood with joy. But it would definitely be mixed with a lot of “Are you kidding me??” and “This is crazy!!” And the look on my face for the entire 9 months would definitely mirror the whole deer in the headlights thing. I can’t even begin to imagine how it would look for the subsequent 18 years!

So imagine my consternation when I heard on the radio this morning that 47-year-old Kelly Preston and her 57-year-old husband, John Travolta, are expecting a baby. The news was enough to have me adding more shots of Red Bull to my commuter cup of coffee.

True, they’re celebrities and they don’t live in the same kind of world we mere mortals do. And I know they’ve had their share of family tragedy when they lost their teenaged son, so I wish them the best of luck. But I also know that since they can afford to park a Lear jet on their front lawn, they can certainly afford to hire someone to clean up a high chair covered with mashed peas. Heck, they can probably afford to hire someone to pick the peas and someone else to mash them!

Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad to be an older parent if you were wealthy and had access to cooks and maids and nannies to help split the parenting workload. I mean, actual people – and not all rolled into one mother.

For me, scrubbing a tub filled with bath toys or picking up a toy-strewn living room would leave me too exhausted to read bedtime stories. Or, maybe more accurately, reading bedtime stories would probably leave me too exhausted to do the cleaning thing. And I think I’ve passed the statute of limitations on knowing which kids’ gear is in and which is out. I’d be buying my kid a Dora the Explorer lunchbox when it was clear that I should’ve been buying Hello Kitty. Young parents seem to be able to handle these decisions whereas older parents are merely trying to decide if they took their Metamucil or if it was their kid’s Barney chewable vitamin.

Oh well. This is definitely not an issue I need to be concerned about and I am not making any announcements any time soon…unless it is to announce some fabulous trip around the world we’ve planned. (And that, too, seems to be pretty much a pipe dream unless we start playing the lottery.)

But I leave you with this thought: Parents are people to be greatly admired no matter what their age. They have an incredibly tough, albeit incredibly important job. And kids? Well, they are God’s gifts to the world and should be loved and cared for as the precious beings they are. But probably they should not drink any Red Bull.

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