Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Age is Just a Number...

My daughter is 28 today. This is exciting because she's in the prime of her life, working hard on her doctorate while interning at a local hospital with kids who have cancer. On a brighter note, she's a dancer for an NFL football team, and she works at a dance studio with little girls who would like to dance professionally someday, too. She just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas and lives happily in a metropolitan city with her nervous dog, Chance, and crazy cat, Lil Mama. She lives a charmed life.


Lil Mama looks cute here, but she's a WILDcat!

But our discussion yesterday about her upcoming birthday led me to some troubling thoughts - Am I actually old enough to have a 28 year old child? How did this happen? I can't be much older than 25 myself. And goodness knows, she was just born. I've just caught up on my sleep after the all-nighters I had to pull with that child! And I'm still worn out from the dance rehearsals and recitals - all those auditoriums where I sat and graded papers, while she danced in her little tutus, are fresh in my memory. My daughter's high school graduation, and college one, for that matter, were mere days ago. So celebrating her 28th birthday seems anachronistic, out of order in our usual chronological life.

But it's okay because I'm certainly not old enough to have an adult child. Numerous times recently, while out shopping with my three-year-old granddaughter (my stepdaughter's beautiful child), someone will say something like "Tell Mommy to buy you this candy" or "You must look like your daddy with your blonde hair and blue eyes because you don't look like Mommy." Sometimes I correct them - "I am Nana" - and sometimes I don't. Maybe it's okay that they think I'm in my twenties.

As a teacher, it's routine for my students to think I'm much older than I am. I remember thinking all of my elementary school teachers were in their 60's. And when I had the opportunity to be reunited with my first grade teacher Mrs. Warnecke after 45 years, my first thought when I saw her was "she's my age now." She had only been 23 years old when she taught me. So the years have squeezed together a little, and we're closer to the same age now than we were then.

The ultimate compliment came yesterday, though. I was working at my school, which I do every two weeks while I'm out of the classroom serving as a Teacher Ambassador for my state. Every time I'm there, it's difficult to get down the hall because of seventh and eighth graders hugging me, yelling my name, and trying to quickly catch me up on their lives. The sixth graders don't really know me, though. I've tried to talk to them as much as I can on my brief visits, but the truth is that I'm a stranger to them. And that hurts.

At least it did until yesterday. I was standing in the hallway talking to some teachers and my principal. We were laughing and sharing stories when my principal said something really funny. The three of us teachers were laughing until we were crying as we noticed Ms. Walton's class coming down the hall on their way back from lunch. I looked at her and said, "Our principal is stupid!" and continued laughing. Of course I meant "stupid" in only an endearing and figurative way. We wiped our tears and went on about our business.

Well, tonight my friend Ms. Walton called me to tell me what transpired after that chance meeting in the hallway. She said that after the class walked into the room and got settled, a student raised his hand and said to her, "Ms. Walton, that eighth grader is going to get in trouble for calling the principal stupid."

Eighth grader. I'm an eighth grader! Yee Haw!

Now it's clear. It's impossible for me to have a 28-year-old child.

Thank you, sixth grader. I hope I teach you next year when I return to my school. You will definitely be my favorite student.

And happy birthday to my impossibly grown-up daughter. It's been an amazing, albeit too quick, 28 years!


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. Good reading and nice stuff!
Stephen C

Anonymous said...

It put a smile on my face, good read. :)