A few weeks ago, the kids and I were on my bed laughing and joking while watching TV.
My youngest, Peter, was hugging me while my daughter Lizzy was trying to tickle me with her feet. She’s only 10, but her feet are as big as mine.
I was grateful to have all my chickens around me.
Tom was sitting on the bed, trying to act a bit more mature at 13 than his younger sister and brother. But he was still laughing and kidding around.
I’m not sure who started it, but all of a sudden we started to talk about the possibility of going back in time.
I was pretty clear that I would not want to go back to my youth. I let my kids know I was very happy with my life and them.
“Mom, you wouldn’t want to go back in time at all? Maybe when you were 20?”
“Gosh, no. I wouldn’t want to be 20 again for all the tea in China.”
Memories of a young woman afraid to speak up for herself while being yelled at in acting school came flooding back.
High heels, black coffee, and feeling out of place defined my life.
I snapped back to the present as Peter started to crawl up to me to say he needed a hug. I was so happy to be with my kids.
“But, mom, I’ve seen pictures of you back then, you looked good at 20, so pretty and in shape.You wouldn’t want to go back to that time?”
Well, maybe not that happy to be with my kids.
I looked at Tom and laughed. Hysterically.
Fearing that he may have hurt me, he back-peddled a bit. “Not that you don’t look good now.”
“It’s OK, Tom. I know I don’t look like I did when I was 20.”
Then I really freaked him out.
“I still wouldn’t want to go back.”
He looked completely baffled.
Not wanting to totally upset the order in his world, I added that it would be nice to feel more in shape and perhaps have a bit more energy like I did when I was younger.
He laughed with me and seemed satisfied with my answer.
The truth is, I don’t want to be 20 again.
Though I wouldn’t mind being able to party all night and then go to work in the morning without skipping a beat. Or loose five pounds just by switching from eating a muffin to a bagel in a week.
True, I don’t look like I did when I was in my twenties, or even my thirties. At 46, I’m showing my age a bit. But even with all that, I still wouldn’t want to be a day younger than I am today.
Along with my gray hair, wrinkles, and thicker waistline, I’m also stronger, physically and mentally, then I was before.
I can pick up a seven-year-old Peter and carry him over a puddle with the ease of lifting a feather. I go up and down the stairs so many times in one day that I should have the calves of a super model. And, when I do manage to get to the gym, I handle the equipment and have more stamina then I did when I was 30.
I speak my mind without hesitating, and I do it without butterflies in my stomach.
My priorities are clear, and I’m comfortable letting others know what they are.
At 46 I no longer worry what people think of me.
It amazes and even saddens me that in my twenties and even some of my thirties, my day could be made or broken by what someone said to me on the subway.
I would obsess over what coworkers or friends thought. Walking down a Manhattan street was always cause to feel insecure about my looks, even though I spent my pre-child years at a perfect weight for me.
Two pounds up could make or break whether I would leave the house. I worried over the way I looked like the way I now worry over my daughter and her myriad physical and developmental problems.
What I looked like was of vital importance. And, no matter how good someone said I looked it was never good enough for me.
I chased the idealized version of what a woman should look like and could tell you a list of my faults as easily as I now recite the phone numbers of my kids’ doctors, or Lizzy’s medications.
Yesterday as I walking out of the gym, very sweaty, not a stitch of make-up on except my precious lipstick, I realized that the desire to look good remained.
What has changed is the overwhelming pressure to be perfect.
I’m at a point in my life where I really like and accept who I am, the good and bad.
It didn’t come easy though.
I have often joked that I have spent the equivalent of a small house on therapy. I also am married to a man who loves me for who I am and not just what I look like.
That’s good because after having my third baby at 39 and going through all the stress of having two children with a variety of learning issues and especially all that has been involved in dealing with Lizzy’s special needs, this old gray mare ain’t what she use to be.
I wish I could go back to the younger woman I was and let her know that the world will still spin on it’s axis because the scale says 126 instead of 125 one day.
I think of all the time I spent obsessing on what someone thought of me, or if I said something stupid to somebody and I want to cry for that young girl.
There were so many things I could have done with all that time and energy. So many passions I could have explored, yet didn’t.
Becoming a mother changed me in more ways than I could ever say, but it’s the strange gift of dealing with my kids special issues that was my real transformation.
I wouldn’t wish the pain of watching Lizzy scream uncontrollably and not know who I am, or the hours we have spent watching her endure test after test on anyone. Five MRIs have revealed extensive brain damage, but not one doctor can tell us why.
And it’s no day at the beach to watch Tom work so hard studying only to still fail a test because of his dyslexia or see how hard Peter has to work some days just to get out a clear sentence.
But it sure puts life in perspective.
I don’t sweat the small stuff so much. It’s not nearly as important as it once was.
True, I don’t look like I once did.
But I’m not afraid of my own shadow anymore either.
The young woman who was so afraid to speak up for herself bears no resemblance to the woman who has no problem speaking her mind to anyone.
Whether I’m discussing a treatment plan with one of my daughters doctors or something that my son needs to make school easier, I’m confident in my ability as an advocate for my kids.
There was a time when the mere act of asking a bank teller for my own money could make me want to faint.
I would be lying if I said I don’t want to get back to a more comfortable and healthy size. I do. I miss being able to walk into a store I love and know that things will look good on me.
It’s reassuring to see the scale start to move down, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. I feel good when I take a minute to breathe before reaching for a cookie or a piece of chocolate. I love going to the gym and doing more today then I did yesterday.
I miss the feeling of being at my best. Yet what I look like, and what others think of me no longer defines me.
At 46 I feel freer to be who I am than who people want me to be.
I see possibilities and opportunities everywhere I look, and I no longer fear success.
At 13, I don’t expect Tom to totally understand all that. Every day he is bombarded with images of what “beauty” looks like and what “hot” is.
I do hope though that my feelings and attitude will affect how he views the world and shape what matters as he gets started on life.
If only a little bit.