When you're a parent, you view everything you do through the mommy (or daddy) lens. Or at least I do. What you eat, what you say, what movies you watch, what books you read - there's suddenly an awareness that your tastes will be reflected in the mirror that is your child. I don't know about you, but I would like that reflection to be flattering, and one that I am proud of.
At 36, I was far from the youngest mother on the maternity floor. But, I was up for the task, excited to welcome my daughter into a family that wanted her and loved her from the moment we knew she existed, and who knew more than a little bit about child growth and development, thanks to my profession of choice.
As a new mom, I failed to do more than the basic math as I planned her future - how old I would be when she started shool, when she got her license, when she graduated from high school, when she graduated from college. But even basic math placed more than a few years between my retirement and her graduation, and the plan never included the events happening in that order.
But plans change. And now, I find myself transitioning into retirement as my daughter transitions into high school. Her reaction to my decision to retire early reflected the effort I had put into not acting like the oldest mom on the block: "Retirement makes you sound old, Mom." I was pleased that she found a discrepancy between my actual age and my unexpected decision, but saddened that the plans that filled me with such optimism made her so sad.
Four months have passed since I hadned in my letter, and what was once a plan is now a reality. I am retired. I am still young, at least as retirees go, and looking forward with both excitement and trepidation to what lies ahead. The last time I was at a crossroads with this much potential impact, the mirror reflected fewer grey hairs and I could still chalk those extra pounds up to baby weight.
But my "baby" is now fourteen, and in a few years, she will be facing momentous decisions of her own. I don't know what the future holds, but for the moment at least, I am certain of one thing: for the first time in nearly fifteen years, I can put my family first, not just in my heart, but on my schedule, and not just in the summer, but all year long. I can set an example for my daughter by showing her that the future is not something to be feared, but rather, something to look forward to, a time that holds tremendous potential, whether you are teen-aged or middle-aged.
It's a tall order, but no one ever promised that parenting would be easy.