When my mother was really old??like 50??she told me that time would fly and in no “time” I would find myself at her ?old age? of 50 watching my children go through coming of age events wondering what happened in what felt like a day that pushed me kicking and fighting from 18 to 50. I laughed this off because it was uncomfortable, bordering on crazy, and unrealistic. Didn?t she know I was never going to get old because I was special, gifted, young, and carefree with no wrinkles, grey hair, dimples in all the wrong places, or tire belly?
We all know how that story ends.
Here I am, along with millions of parents like me, about to witness another milestone in our children?s lives as they prepare for college and school graduations. I suspect many share my story in one form or another. Those memories of conversations with my mother have been relentless these days. My youngest recently asked me to sew her shirt. It took me 15 minutes ?with reading glasses? to try to get the thread through the needle. My 50-year-old mother laughed and laughed in my head as she watched me struggle with my own coming of ?old age.? When I was little, she would ask me to thread the needle for her and tell me she used to tease her mother when she couldn?t see and asked her to help. Time has a way of biting one in the buttocks. Over and over. [Maybe that?s where the dimples come from?]
Of course, this time should be to celebrate the graduates, their dreams, the life ahead of them. I am the biggest fan of commencement speeches. I used to think it was because I was a very empathetic, deep, contemplative person that found inspiration in everything and knew well what those kids sitting on stage were thinking. I didn?t realize until recently it was because I ?the parent? was looking for answers myself. I had dreams. I was searching for myself. I wanted to be the change. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Who is inspiring the parents? Where are the self-help guides to traverse this new ?coming-of-old-age? territory where there are still mountains to conquer, dreams to realize, and worlds to change? In this new kingdom, hearts and minds expand, figuratively if not literally. [Although science has shown that if you follow a whole-foods, plant-based diet, the expansion may also be literal. Please go back to previous blogs for more information. Or Bassem Yousef?s recently released show Plant B. Or my latest conversation with Dina Husseini.] The figurative expansion is a good thing, in my opinion, until everything makes you teary and/or inspires you. You notice these things when your children roll their eyes, or the people around you recognize the earnest look on your face and become confused and uncomfortable because they really were not intending to make you sad or contemplative. They were simply commenting on the glorious blue skies. Meanwhile, in your new kingdom, you are reminiscing about a time not too long ago when you sat on a picnic blanket under the same blue sky and watched your daughter chase bubbles and laugh as they disappeared when she caught up with them. (I think you get the picture. I have to stop. It is making me teary.) The shitty side of this new kingdom ?there is always a shitty side, where else can the rubbish go?? is the inevitable shrinking and dwindling of every other part of you, together with a cultural pre-scheduled programming that begins to write you out of the story: dreams, mountains, and self-actualization alike.
This is not how the story plays in my book.
Fellow parents, I invite you to imagine yourself on that stage with your child about to receive the keys to a new kingdom where the sky is always blue, and the sun is always shining. There is no sewing required. Ever. There are no tutors depleting your bank account, no waiting up at night for children to come home, no negotiating of curfews. The treasure this kingdom offers is the gift of time, a special, slower kind of time that makes room for deep, long breaths on endless walks, reading books, or watching tv on the couch in daylight because you want to. This time has space to reconnect you with friends that nourish the heart and soul. And most importantly and especially, it is this time when you get to be with your children who are no longer children. In this new kingdom, you graduate from being a parent to a most special friend, a friendship of the extraordinary kind, one borne of blood, sweat, and tears.
Life has a way of biting you in the buttocks. When you are young in your graduation gown anxiously waiting on the starting line to explode, you take time for granted. You are too busy chasing dreams to give it a thought. [Why should you? It will never get you. You are special.] When you are old [yes, the ripe old age of 50], sitting in the audience without the cap and gown, you are still at the same starting line, possibly even chasing dreams. But the chase is slower, more thoughtful, and full of gratitude and respect. You see, that chase cradles time in its bosom.
Congratulations mamas and papas. And welcome to the new kingdom. You are about to step into the best ?time? of your life.