When I think back to the last time in my life I was certain I knew it all, I’d have to say it started around age 16 and continued straight into young adulthood. My pre-parent self in particular had a ton of knowledge, ironically, about how to parent. Those were the years I had all the answers. I should have enjoyed that false sense of confidence a little more, because most often I now know absolutely nothing. Thinking about know-it-all young me, I came up with 9 things to share with that that smarty pants that she never would have guessed she would have done by the time she was 42. I aimed for 10 things, but by now I have realized that life is not the boss of me and I can do a top 9 list instead of a top 10 list anytime I want. So there, life.
Now, these are not accomplishments, because my early self was actually pretty good at predicting what 42 year old me would get done. Teaching, check. A bunch of kids, check. Living by my family, check. Doing a little writing, by-the-skin-of-my-teeth, check. What I’m thinking about are those things that would have made her cringe and say, “No. Way. I’d never do that.” So, young me, here are a few things I bet you wouldn’t guess you would have done in your adult years as a parent (I started with the gross stuff to get it out of the way).
I’m talking to you chick with the feathered hair and Swatch watch
(I should probably leave some words of caution about 90’s fashion while I’m at it).
- You will catch vomit with your bare hands and not head straight for the shower. I can hear you saying, “GROSS!” across time and space. But when a sick and terrified two year does the vomiting that child’s comfort will actually become more important than your cleanliness. I know, putting the comfort of someone else before yourself is not on your list of strengths as a young adult, but you rock at it now. So instead of running for the hills, you just change your shirt and your child and go back to cuddling the miserable little thing until he or she does it again. Also worth mention in this category are other gross things you wouldn’t believe you would do, such as sucking green stuff out of babies noses, wiping butts on demand, smelling disgusting breath as a means to check for strep, and lots and lots of stuff involving poop. While we are on that topic…
- You and your friends will someday talk about poop nonstop…not only the poop of your own children but the poop of other children that do not even belong to you. For a bathroom shy person you will have no problem really digging into the topic of baby and small child poop. You will spend so much time dissecting what is in your children’s diapers as well as what is and what isn’t in their potties with your fabulous playgroup friends and sisters (honestly…those are hours we’ll never get back ladies). You will constantly be looking for clues about these little humans you have birthed and in the early years, poop is one of the only concrete things they will give you regularly (and if not…lots of talk about that too). You will look for signs hidden in the excrement and sometimes you will find them. Young me, I am sure you would be so grossed out by what we now find to be quite the fascinating topic.
- You will give birth with a packed audience. Yup, you will have a crowd every time. I know you don’t even like to “tinkle” with someone in another stall in a public restroom (and actually slightly older you still doesn’t) but giving birth for some reason will be a socially acceptable party. I currently prefer to believe there was no poop involved in our birth process, although those who were there will NEVER even speak of this, so I can’t technically find out. But either way, having family there to greet each baby the moment they entered the world will be beyond priceless for you. And you can be a lot to take during childbirth, your poor husband could not be expected to go it alone. The fact that you even allow photos and video to be taken of this event might leave you speechless.
- You will work out at 5:30 am on purpose. For years there you were a sleeping-in kind of slug. You don’t work out and you are not sporty and you haven’t found a way to make your non-athletic self into any kind of active creature. So you sleep late and eat lots of Doritos…this is your jam. And you feel reasonably good and energetic and can still fit into your jeans. Oh my dear younger self, you lucky thing! At 42 this lifestyle would kill you. Yoga will swoop in to save you and the quiet of 5:30 will be a balm to your soul. You will fall off the wagon here and there, but basically you have discovered that feeling healthy in your body is a great thing and in order to feel this way your body has to actually move. Funny thing, despite the fact you now work out…
- You will not care how you look in a swimsuit. You now select your swimsuit based on the following criteria: Coverage. Will it stay on if you jump off the dock? If a kid pulled down the front will you be able to recover quickly? Can you eat what you want while wearing it without feeling morally obligated to suck in your gut? And, is it on sale? That’s it…basically my friend you are over yourself. You’ll just blend in and try and keep your parts in thank you very much. You have no desire to spend time thinking about how you look strutting down the beach…younger me, by 42 you are free. And it is awesome. And in another crazy turn of events…
- You will care about a clean house. Pretty sure no one who knows you, young self, could have predicted this one. Those of us who saw your high school bedroom certainly couldn’t. But yup, you care. You totally wish you didn’t, but your soul is churned up with both human and environmental chaos and the human chaos isn’t going to change. So you need stuff picked up and you get now why our mom did too. Your house most likely never reaches actual clean by organized people standards but, sorry 16, your vow to let your kids keep their bedrooms however they want has been broken.
- You will let your kids pick out their own outfits, even if they look awful. Your current ideas about your future adorable, plucked right from a magazine, fashionista children will go down the tubes when your first kid wants to wear nothing but glittery princess costumes. It’s all downhill from there sweetheart. You will not have the energy or desire to waste time arguing with your pint-sized divas, you will simply go with “stripe day” as a valid wardrobe theme in order to keep the peace. You are tired and have bigger fish to fry. On the upside your boys will let you dress them, but alas, you will find that boy clothes are pretty much just an endless parade of sweats and t-shirts so it’s not that fun. On a related note, your own wardrobe takes a dive when you can no longer stand anything with zippers after spending a decade in maternity pants. Dressy yoga pants become a thing, and you love it.
- You will realize that 42 is not old at all. Seriously. Your 16 year-old self is still in here, along with your 22 year-old self and your 30 year-old self (you get the picture). So the thing is you feel just about the same as you do now, just more comfy in your skin. You know a whole lot less and 42 year-old you has realized that’s OK, knowing it all is totally overrated. You’re also a little more tired. Other than that there is no Earth shattering difference between young you and slightly older you. Despite a few little wrinkles (seriously wear some sunscreen, enough with the baby oil already, you do not even tan, stop trying and protect our pale self) you still feel young. You, my dear, at 42, are not ancient and old…and for the record you are more fun than ever.
- You will learn what it means to love someone (more than yourself). This one of the best things that happens to you, even though how it looks now would make little sense to you, young self. It is not your fault, it is hard for a young and free human to fathom this concept I think. You are the center of your own universe now. What happens to you is this, you grow up…which it turns out doesn’t actually mean doing whatever you want. It actually ends up meaning doing what you DON’T want to do cheerfully because it makes someone else happy. Crazy right? And you now find yourself doing things that do not benefit you in the least, like shopping for your kids’ back to school wardrobe and getting nothing for yourself. Or waiting to eat dinner until all your kids have eaten in case you run out (you have 5 kids sweetie, you will sometimes underestimate their need to EAT…please note on pot pie nights you need to make 2 or you will end up with cereal every time). Or, you will try to get comfy in your own bed without disturbing the crazy children whose arms and legs are sprawled everywhere, you don’t even think of kicking them out. And you will turn into a human Kleenex for your sick children and make your peace with it. None of this bothers you in the least. In fact, doing these things will actually bring you joy. Mind blown.
So young me, there is so much to look forward to in what you now think of as old age. Even though you are having a blast now, be assured the best is yet to come, even though my current best may sound nuts to young you. And again, please put on some sunscreen.