Friday, February 24, 2012

It Keeps Me Young

I am by no means in the age range that most people would consider "old" but more and more lately I find myself reminded of the fact that I am in my thirties, and that isn't exactly young. As much as I know that I am a fundamentally different person than who I was a decade ago in a lot of ways, I don't really feel any different. Getting married and having a kid were both huge lifetime milestones that I felt should have changed everything about the way I look at the world and about how I perceive myself in relation to it. And yes, in some ways, they did, but throughout I still very much feel like me, like I haven't changed at all. It's funny that something so big just becomes your new normal so quickly and it becomes hard to remember just how different life really felt before it happened.

I mean, as much as my days revolve around my daughter and spending time with her and taking care of her, I don't ever really feel in my mind like what I expect a mom should feel like. Every once in a while I'll be doing something with Baby Girl, or I'll just get a glimpse of her making some face or discovering something new, and I'll be completely bowled over by the realization that this is my child. That my husband and I made her, that she wouldn't exist had my life not unfolded as it has. And that I am responsible for making sure she has every chance of growing up safely and happily and becoming a good person and a member of this crazy world we live in. It's a bizarre feeling. It's not like I ever forget that I'm a parent or anything, it's just that it's so much a part of my life I don't even ever think about it. So when I do, I am hit with a huge feeling of awe and wonder (and more than a little amazement that I've been entrusted with such a huge responsibility).

It seems like every day when I look in the mirror, the signs are there that I am getting older. More grey in my hair every day, and I've started to notice lines around my eyes and face. My body definitely doesn't have as much get-up-and-go as it did ten years ago. But none of that stuff bothers me. It surprises me from time to time, certainly, but I have no problem with aging naturally. I am not going to dye my hair to cover up the grey (I am actually kind of curious to see how long it takes to turn completely), and I won't be spending oodles of money on those expensive anti-wrinkle creams. I earned those laugh lines. I think that the biggest reason why I am not bothered by getting older is because in my heart and my mind, I am still a kid. 

As I grew up and my friends began to put away their childish toys and pursuits in favor of newer, more grown up, replacements, I only ever followed half-heartedly. I never let go of my love of toys and cartoons entirely, and while I did go through my party phase, I don't think there was ever a time I wouldn't have rather gone to see the new Disney movie (or stayed home to play with Legos while watching Powerpuff Girls) than to go out clubbing. I come by it honestly, I have grown to realize. I come from a long line of women capable of dealing with the responsibilities of adulthood while still holding on to "childish" pleasures. I think it lends us a little extra bit of happiness in our lives, to be honest. 

As I've grown up and moved even farther away from childhood, I've never stopped playing with and collecting toys or watching cartoons. My collection of Disney movies and other cartoons on DVD was quite impressive before my daughter came along, thank you very much. I have also, somehow, managed to seek out other people in my life who share the same outlook. All of my closest friends still embrace that "kid at heart" spirit to varying degrees. For a while I thought that everybody was like this, that everyone had some pursuit from childhood that they had kept with them when entering the realm of grownups. Sadly, I have learned that this just isn't so. There are a lot of people who frown on those of us who still play with toys or watch cartoons without the justification of entertaining a child in our care (and even quite a few who think that engaging in play with children is really just going overboard). I feel a little sorry for those people, to be honest. I am sure they have things that they take pleasure in, but no adult emotion can compare to that outright glee of childhood joy. It just can't. That's why you have to keep your inner kid alive in my opinion, because if you let her die, then you lose that sense of wonder about the world, and life is a lot less fun. There's enough doom and gloom out there for us grownups to deal with, if you ask me.

I also think that this outlook helps to make me a better parent (not than other people, but than I would be otherwise), because I can take just as much joy out of the things my daughter loves as she does. I can play with her and not be phoning it in. It gives us a chance to spend even more quality time together, which I am very thankful for, because, you guys, my daughter is awesome. And she's just going to keep getting even more awesome (then she'll become a teenager, but once she grows out of that, I fully expect her to be awesome again). We are standing here with all of the years to come spread out before us and the possibilities are endless. 

I used to worry that with her being a single child (we have no plans for more children) she would have difficulty learning some of the concepts that siblings are great at teaching--like sharing. But I don't so much worry about that anymore. For one thing, I am trying to remain mindful of those lessons and ensure that she gets to spend time around other kids so I can monitor her progress. For another, it never really dawned on me until recently that as much as I love to play with toys too, well, she's going to have to learn how to share with me. (Hey, there are plenty of ponies for both of us to play with.) As she starts to find all of my toys scattered around the house and claim them for her own, it's a good refresher in sharing for me as well, it turns out. Win-win.

I guess what it boils down to is that I would rather be young of heart than look young of body any day. As much responsibility as parenthood is, having my daughter around certainly keeps me young of heart. Now, if you need me, I'll be playing with my daughter...

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