Ageless with fingers crossed

 

Being in my seventies doesn't bother me as much as having all my children in their forties. I've asked the boys to always wear a cap or hat around me so that I never know if they experience early balding or salt in their pepper hair.   Oh wait---I probably won't be able to see it anyway. 

Somehow, it's okay for me to have arthritis and to wear bifocals, but the thought of seeing those normal signs of aging in my children makes me realize the urgency of pre-need arrangements. Why is my son wearing a copper bracelet? Surely not. Nah...it couldn't be arthritis. It's probably a wristwatch. 

I've been rounding down my kids' ages since the early 70s. "He's so cute," the playground mom said, touching my son's curls. "Still not walking?" His chubby fingers clutched mine as he inched towards the swings, wobbly as a newborn foal.  

"Oh, you know. He's getting there," I said, as if everyone walked around with a twenty-five-pound toddler death-gripping their thumbs. As if on cue, my son dropped to his hands and knees and sped off, slap-slap-slapping across the filthy playground flooring.  

"He's a big boy," Playground Mommy says. "How old?"

"Thirteen months."  

"Thirteen months?!" she said, eyes wide. "He's huge!"  

That was true . . . except for the "thirteen months" part. My son was actually seventeen months old, but you'd never hear it from me, at least not at the playground. 

Yes, I know it's nuts. As a reasonably intelligent, Birkenstock wearing, "Every child develops differently" type of gal, I always assumed I'd be Captain Awesome when it came to raising my own kid. I pictured myself surrounded by a crew of happy, tow-headed tots, each secure in the knowledge that they were special Just The Way They Are. But all that flew out the window when faced with a gaggle of playground parents whose ten-month-olds were running laps around my older son.  

I'd round down his age down to the nearest month, shaving off a few precious developmental weeks. "Oh," the parents would sigh, relief flooding their faces. "That makes more sense." At first I didn't think too much of it. But then it started. The looks. The tsks. The well-meaning advice from people whose charges were walking – running! – at twelve or nine or even seven months.  

At seventeen months – and thirty-six-inches tall – he was as big as most three-year-olds, so it made sense that his toddler brain would have trouble coordinating his preschool-sized parts. I finally decided to put down the parenting magazines and let him develop on his own schedule. After all, nobody goes to college not knowing how to walk. Yet all it took was one raised eyebrow on the playground to send me spiraling. 

It started small, as most lies do. I'd round down his age down to the nearest month, shaving off a few precious developmental weeks. "Oh," the parents would sigh, relief flooding their faces. "That makes more sense." Gone were the furrowed brows and awkward talk of early intervention. Suddenly we could gab about normal things like nap schedules and vegetable aversion. 

Fast forward. My son celebrated a milestone birthday a few years back. I didn't want to think about it. Then my grandkids gave him a birthday card that said it all: 

"Oops. You fortied!"

cindybaker@cableone.net


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