Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
At Forty-Five, I See Now How Small My World Was As A Child
I’ve been in my forties for 5 years now. Forty-five. Two score, plus five. Forty-five trips around the sun.
Although I am astounded by how I perceived forty-five when I was a child—forty-something was old, real old—I can only attribute it to how small my world was at the time.
When my mother was my age, I was fourteen. Twice the age of my own daughter.
My daughter is seven and in second grade. I remember vividly who my teacher was at that age, who I sat beside in class, who my best friend was. I remember missing teeth, a pink dress below the knee with Mary Janes, and kickball at recess. I had no idea then that my mother was struggling to raise me as a single mom, layering me in clothes to prevent a trip to the hospital in the middle of the night. Back then, missing work on account of a sick child wasn’t a right. It was a risk. I’m reminded of that reality whenever I think about how my mother used to respond—aghast—at the flex time I would take when I worked in corporate.
I’m now my mother’s age when she introduced me to my dad for the first time. What was that like for her, introducing me to that other part of me? Now it is vivid, this palpable comprehension of who I was in the grand tablet of time. When did this shift occur and why did I not see it when it knocked me over the head?
I spend the days with my daughter in homeschool. We drop off her brothers in the morning at the co-op, journey through multiple freeways to visit a sick auntie, pick up hot soup and bread for breakfast, forage for quarters to do laundry every Tuesday. We carve out time to go to the park to release the wiggles, to sit under the shade and read, to see vegetation out of doors and not in the pages of gorgeously illustrated read-alouds we select from the library. She climbs trees ruthlessly when her brothers are watching, and when they’re not with us, she calls for me to look up from the book on my lap to see her throw herself down a spiraling slide. At home, I’ll offer her water and a piece of fruit to cool off because sometimes when we spontaneously leave for hours during the day, we forget to prepare for famine. As she sips and closes her eyes in utter satisfaction, I want her to be a child for the rest of my life because what I offer her is just right, just enough, just what she needs and nothing more. Her eyes are shielded from what she shouldn’t see, her heart is guarded, cemented like a fortress.
What I would give to have a small world again, simplified to the lowest terms, with just the essential parts of life completing the whole.
As a writer, it isn’t intuitive to express terms without the dark elements of life barging in to overshadow what could be so halcyon and lovely. Years of ugliness, of experiencing the cruelty of the world razes any beauty in a creative work, like a handkerchief that wipes the brow of a miner. What I do is grip the innocence of childhood tight in my palm, use it as a balm for failed expectations, habitual sorrow.
Charlotte Mason, the quintessential English educator at the turn of the twentieth century, believed that the child is a person and we must educate the whole person, not just her mind. She defined education as an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
Contrary to popular belief, depending on who I’m talking to, educating my children at home provides rest and balance. Arising to three beautiful sleepy heads who wipe their eyes and clamor to hug and kiss me in the morning exemplifies the joy God said it would be—she arises and they call her blessed.
Yet, my children teach me this repeatedly: to forgive others and to humble myself when I’ve failed. And that alone is the answer to combating what could potentially cut us deeply in adulthood.
I’ve learned not to take for granted the fruit that continues to grow on our tree. I don’t get a do-over of stewarding three beautiful souls in this lifetime, my progeny, because life is a vapor, a speck in the timeline of eternity. As my children are made ripe, time stands still for a moment. I watch them climb the long incline through the wilderness of their lives and there, in the frozen state of awe, I realize what many who are older have already learned: this too will come to pass.
How do you combat what is cutting you deeply as an adult?