Lots of kindergarten parents are anxious about the first week of school. Will their little post-preschooler make friends? Will he know his ABC’s? Will she be able to count to 20? Will he hold his pencil like a madman wielding a knife?
I have actually had some low-grade anxiety about kindergarten for exactly five years now. I gave birth to my son Jake the day after my 44th birthday, and almost from the moment the doctor clipped the umbilical cord, I’ve been worrying about being the school’s oldest kindergarten mom.
I remember as a child reading the Guinness Book of World Records and studying the photo of the world’s oldest mom, circa 1950. With her prune-like face, she looked more like the girl’s great-grandmother, and I imagined the mom teaching her daughter how to churn butter and scrub clothes with a washboard while the poor daughters’ friends were sampling new-fangled tv dinners and learning how to do the twist.
This Tuesday is my 49th birthday. My mom had me at 19, and by the time she was my age she already had seven grandchildren. My two younger sisters have three grandchildren between them, with another on the way. The norm of my upbringing taught me that mothering is a job for the young. Very young.
Since my nieces and nephew started having kids in their early 20’s, I was sure that I’d be joining young parents like them who hang out at Usher concerts and only write in lower case abbreviated text.
Fresh-faced 20-somethings are still blessed with a young metabolism, a chest that is naturally at attention, and strong bladder control. It’ll be at least two decades before they can relate to my menopause symptoms, perpetually gray roots or the fact that my right knee cracks every time I try to squat. They’re still paying for auto insurance up the wazu in the young driver category while I’m a year away from getting my AARP card. Would I have anything in common with these new parents besides our 5-year olds being placed in the same kindergarten class?
Last Wednesday my son started kindergarten at Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village, and my fears were… totally unfounded. It’s true that I very well may be the oldest kindergarten mom at the school, but the other parents didn’t look like they recently attended their senior prom either. The class was filled with parents in their 30’s, some in their 40’s and one dad who might actually be in his 50’s. If there were 20-somethings in the room, they didn’t seem to be bothered by sea of fine lines. Instead of feeling like the freak of nature mom who got knocked up despite having eggs full of cobwebs, I felt like I was in a room with parents who might actually have been alive long enough to hear the original versions of the Glee remakes.
The other lesson that became immediately apparent: It’s not all about me. No one was looking at me – the ancient mom – and wondering why I crashed their party. The other parents were admiring their beautiful children. Some kids were excited. Some were scared. Some cried, hanging on to mom’s pant leg. One even threw up (the child – not the parent) she was so nervous.
I glanced across the room and wondered which of these moms might end up becoming my very best friends for the next six years. We might actually have some interests in common besides having five-year olds in the same kindergarten class.
Eventually they’ll all become as old as I am today and I’ll be able to share my experience, strength and hope about getting rid of gray roots. Many of them will give birth to more children. And some day one of them will enter their future child’s kindergarten class as a card-carrying member of the AARP.