Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is the first day of the new format. Remember, we’re just dropping one episode a week now.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that I’m too old not to be an empty-nester. And this all started because friends asked us out on an evening outing.
Now we were in a very odd situation and that most of our friends have kids who are either in their late teens or already in college, so they don’t have the same concerns that we have. We have a four-year-old and three thirteen-year-olds. So the thirteen-year-olds are too old to want to have a sitter. They’re too young to babysit their four-year-old brother for an extended period of time, especially if we’re going away some distance, so it creates quite a conundrum for us, especially since these invitations are spur of the moment invitations — you know, we got asked to go sailing; we get asked to go to all kinds of fun things.
And it’s not that we don’t want to do them, it’s just that, again, we have to think of our situation. The girls don’t want a sitter but they’re too young to be without a sitter, and Bug, our little boy, definitely needs a sitter.
Now, sometimes, people say things like, “Just bring the kids along!” Oh, we’ve tried that a couple of times! Four-year-olds are really busy! And oftentimes, our friends get frustrated especially with me because I have to be running around my four-year-old, making sure that he’s not getting into trouble, like playing with their stereo buttons or their TV buttons, or putting his feet on their very nice couch.
On the other hand, the girls get bored because, well, they get bored with everything at this age and adults are certainly not going to be exempt. So they’re bored and they make sure that Daddy and I know they’re bored — you know, they roll their eyes, they sigh deeply, “When are we going to leave? How long have we been here?” (Five minutes! We’ve been here five minutes!).
So that’s a challenge for parents like us — older parents with young children. And the other thing too is that when our older friends ask us, “Well, how are you doing? What’s going on with you? What’s going on with the kids?” — two minutes into our conversation about our kids’ teen drama and they’re inwardly rolling their eyes. They’ve been through it. They’ve survived it. They’ve moved on. And you’re boring them! Yes, yes! We are! I’d tell myself at those moments that turnabout is fair play — they have bored me with conversations about their kids when their kids were teens and I had no kids! So I plow on mercilessly! But I am conscious of it and I do understand, having been in a similar position (or in a reverse position) that it isn’t fun to listen to your friends’ complaints about their teenagers. It just isn’t.
And of course, all of our older friends are using their disposable income to travel. Now more and more, we’re in our mid-50s, more and more, these parents are done with college, meaning they’ve put their kids through college and they’re either close to retirement, are entrepreneurs who work independently, or have retired. And that means they get to travel. And I get to drool over their travel posts on Facebook! Because well, one of my friends recently went to St. Petersburg in Russia (this was, of course, before the pandemic — shortly before the pandemic) and I’ve always wanted to go to Russia. But at the same time that she was going to Russia, I was going on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. Now, mind you, I’m not a beach person. I don’t really enjoy islands. And here I am — living on an island, going on a cruise ship, island hopping.
So yes, I’m envious of my friends. I admit it. I admit it. Because it’s hard to be caught in that in-between place — being too old to hang around with young parents, but having children that are too young to allow me to do what the old parents are doing. Now that isn’t to say that there aren’t advantages to having young children because there’s plenty of advantages to being an older parent and having young children.
My kids keep me active. With all the health problems that I have, I think if I didn’t have my kids at this age, I would probably spend most of my time curled up with a nice book on my couch. I would make up excuses not to travel because I would tell myself I’m too out of shape. Now the reality is that the kids keep me really active. They keep me walking (believe it or not, I usually walk between 3 to 6 miles a day). And now they keep me biking. So they keep me heart-healthy.
And they do keep the drama for their mama! I have to admit that it’s fun. It’s fun listening to them talk about their challenges and it’s fun seeing them explore the world and it makes me look back at my own teenage years and think, “Wow, that’s why I thought that way! That’s why I felt that way. Because back then, you’re in the thick of it and you never really look back (or at least I don’t). I’m not one of those people that feels that high school was the best years of their lives. High school was fun, don’t get me wrong, but I moved on. There were plenty of other fun things to do.
So I listen to their dramas, I listen to their explorations and not only do I get to vicariously relive my teen years through them but I get to explore the world from a different perspective. Because even though my kids have aspects of my personality, they’re not me. They’re not like me and their perspectives and their views are completely different. I mean they crack me up when they give me their views on politics, Donald Trump vs Biden as they try to determine whether they want to be democrats or republicans (I’m an independent myself so there’s no push in the way there). So it’s just really, really, interesting to have these types of conversations with them and they keep me fresh. And alive.
The other thing is that they connect me to this generation in a way that I don’t think I’ll be interested in being connected if I didn’t have them. Which also means that they expose me to different experiences. Experiences that I wouldn’t seek out myself. For example — a Disney cruise to the Bahamas.
Now I have to tell you, I’ve been in other cruises and if you’re thinking of taking a cruise once this pandemic is over, Disney is the way to go! Oh my goodness! If you have kids, they are fabulous! Absolutely fabulous! Everything is family-oriented and at the same time, there are places, there’s these Disney Clubs where you can leave your kids and go off and do adult things on your own. And the thing is that you’re not really leaving your kids, your kids are leaving you. There were times when I just wanted to take a nap in the cabin and the kids were like, “See you later, Mom! We’re off!” They loved the Disney Clubs! Now we did this when the kids were I think about 9, and they are really looking forward to trying the teen club the next time that we do this so Bahamas, here we go!
As far as island hopping, my kids always really wanted to go to the waterpark Atlantis in the Bahamas ever since they were little kids and we were living in Michigan. They would see these Atlantis commercials on cable and they were like, “We’ve always wanted to go there!” So this cruise gave us the opportunity to take them to Atlantis, and they had a blast!
And of course, when we were there, we had the opportunity to jet ski. I attempted it and failed — to be honest with you, I am extremely hydrophobic. But it was a blast, nevertheless! Do attempt it! And my kids had a blast doing it! Another thing that I don’t know that I would have ever paid for or even tried was touching a dolphin. That was an incredible experience that we were happy to pay for because the kids were interested! Just the touching of the dolphin was amazing! It was a real smooth feel but at the same time incredibly oily. Like oily velvet, so to speak.
But that wasn’t the most amazing part of it. The amazing part was interacting with this dolphin matriarch that bossed all the other dolphins around. And the people, too, I mean, she had a lot to say and she was gonna put you in your place. So because of our kids, we had this experience. Otherwise, I’m sure we would’ve said, “Uh, you know, that’s kind of a neat experience but do we really want to pay for that? There are other things we would’ve preferred to do. But the kids pushed us in a very specific direction which was definitely outside of our comfort zones.
And it’s not the first time that they do that. When we went to Aruba (yes, I know, I said I don’t like islands! But I seem to be spending a lot of time in them lately), we went parasailing. I’m terrified of heights! Absolutely terrified of heights! If I’m terrified of the ocean, I mean, multiply that by about a thousand! And here I am, parasailing with my kids! They wanted to do it and at the last minute, Emmy decided that she was scared; that she didn’t want to do it. And I didn’t want my fears to infect her so I said, “Let’s do it together!”
So there we were, going up, up, higher and higher, and she’s screaming, “We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die!” I felt like I was dying if that counts for anything! You know, looking down, seeing the ocean, and the water in Aruba was so clear at that time that you could literally see the turtles and the fish from high up moving around in the water. My daughter still remembers that and it’s been 5, 6, maybe even 7 years since that trip. So would I have done that on my own? Nope! Would I have done that for my husband? Absolutely not! No way! But I did it for my kids. I absolutely did it for my kids and there are other things that I want to do just because of my kids.
Just before the pandemic started, one of my girls wanted to go back to Blizzard Beach and she wanted to do the Summit Plummet. Let me tell you, this thing looks scary as sin! It is a huge drop. Because if it’s an optical illusion (and Disney’s good at doing those things), I don’t see it. I’ve stood next to it many times trying to figure out if they are fooling the eyes somehow but no matter where I stand this thing looks like an amazing dip.
Once again, if it was just up to me, would I even consider doing this? Absolutely no! But my daughter wants to do it and she asked me to do it with her. So guess what? Pretty soon, I’m gonna be dropping down the Summit Plummet!
And the list goes on! I was always into the theater. I love the theater. I love libraries. I love museums. But here, one of my daughters reintroduced me to the theater or introduced me to a different aspect of the theater, which is musical theater. She absolutely loves it and as a result, I have seen “Hamilton” way too many times and now, since it’s been dropped on Disney+, I’m sure to see it fifty times before we go to New York, hopefully, next summer when this is all over. And would I have considered musical theater otherwise? Uhhh… I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I certainly wouldn’t have watched West Side Story, Hamilton, Sweeney Todd, et cetera, et cetera several times in a few months’ span. But there you have it.
And one of my other kiddos currently believes herself to be Wiccan. I say that with a smile because at her age, I too thought of myself as Wiccan. And I think more than anything, she’s struggling to find the female divine in the Christian religion. And she hasn’t quite found it. So she’s exploring that aspect. And I’m supporting her through it because it’s important for her to expand her world view and to make informed decisions. So it’s interesting. Always interesting to be around these kids that are constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to explore new things or re-explore traveled old trails from a new perspective.
So do I mind the fact that I am too old not to be an empty-nester? I don’t because it would be like saying that I regret the life choices I’ve made. And I don’t regret them. Okay, maybe I regret a couple! But none that involve my children. I really enjoy being their mom, with all its challenges, its ups, and its downs. With all the self-questioning that goes along with it, as I attempt to be the best mother that I can be for them.
I really am enjoying the spirit in my life and I encourage you to do the same. Because we will eventually get to enjoy those things that our friends are doing. But in the meantime, we get to explore the world once again with fresh eyes through our children. How blessed are we?