The Quest To Define My Peer Group
My six year calls me “old lady” in a mischievous moment. He means it in the most affectionate way… But then he gives my eyelid a playful tug and declares it gross. “Eeeeew”, he says. You have wrinkly old lady skin”.
He gets some time to think about that one.
But I don’t let it bother me. I still look younger than my age. I exercise, I color my hair, wear youthful clothes and try to keep up with electronic gadgetry.
In short, I blend.
Sure, there are parents who don’t invite me into their social circles. While for the majority I don’t think age is the reason, for a few I’m certain it IS. They’ve seen through my disguise and figured out that I’m old enough to be THEIR mom. And it creeps them out.
But it’s OK, I get it. I don’t obsess about it. When I go where parents gather, I go as Adam’s mom, not as “the old lady”. I may envy their higher energy levels, bigger families, and all the extra years they’ll have to share with their kids — but I don’t let that define me.
Then one day I realized I’d done better at this “blending in” thing than I thought…
A Discovery Around The Campfire
It had been a long time since I’d done anything with my “life-before-children” friends. After Adam arrived, our social life revolved around parents of his peers. But our son was now six. So we resumed a tradition that started almost twenty years ago; a summer pilgrimage with our old camping buddies.
Sitting around the campfire that night, I basked in the comfort of familiar friends. Then I began to notice something; they seemed older than I remembered. Much older. So much older that I felt out of place.
This couldn’t be my “real” peer group. They even act more like “old people” than I do!
Could it be that I’ve come to prefer the company of a younger crowd? Have I come to think of those thirty and forty-somethings parents as my “tribe”?
I suppose it makes sense. Surely parenting is more of a young person’s game. Becoming a mom in my forties means I’m living more of a young person’s life than the life of someone chasing retirement. (Actually, I wonder if I’ll ever retire. But that’s a conversation for another day).
So regardless of whether younger parents see me as a peer, in my own mind, see MYSELF as one of them.
Finding My Place…Or Not
So I can relax now, right?. Maybe this whole where-do-I-fit-in thing is a dead issue.
Or is it?
The other day I had another surprising reaction.
I’d scheduled a play date with one of Adam’s new school buddies. The dad did the drop off and when I opened the door to greet him, a wave of excitement washed over me.
There stood a man who was at least in his fifties. Maybe older. “Finally”, I thought, “someone who knows the secret handshake!”
Better still, their boy was an only child too. Another couple who’d run out of time, or energy, money, or some suchcombination.
I blurted out how nice it was that Adam could play with someone other than me, and much how he longed for a baby brother. When I told the dad that we’d “run out of time to make one for him”, he nodded knowingly. “It’s hard” he said.
Having heard those same two words from dozens of parents, I knew this parent meant them with real empathy. He understood.
Still Caught In The Middle
So, where does this leave me?
Back in the middle I guess. Sometimes feeling out of place with same-age peers. Playing with the younger crowd but not always keeping up. Frustrated when younger parents can’t commiserate over mid-life challenges but not wanting to limit myself strictly to those who can.
In short, still caught in the middle. But loving (almost) every minute of it!