As the school year progresses, my 14-year old son, as well as our new 12-year old son, who is an addition to the blend we already had going, keep bringing new friends home. Our family has gotten bigger, our challenges and our joys have increased, and our schedule of activities has somehow quadrupled.
Meanwhile, as I got ready for work the other day, I noticed a new development of my own. I am the proud owner of my first silver hair. It could be gray — the sun was coming through my bathroom window at just the right angle, and so it rather sparkled.
I’m choosing to think of it as silver or even dazzling white. It hangs just off to the side of my right temple. I couldn’t be more delighted with its placement — or the moment it burst upon me in all its glory — declaring me wise!
Can you believe it? I’m not even 40 — not until March, and already this crowning achievement, this strand of pure brilliance is presenting itself to the world and adorning me with instant celebrated wisdom. Did I mention that I live in a house of teen boys?
Is it at all possible that we, as a culture, will begin to admire our mentor age group? I hope so, because I think I have just become a part of that group, and I would like some admiration. I refuse to think of anyone anymore as older simply because, as my parents continue their course through the higher grades, they continue to be young in my eyes. When meeting with women I consider peers, I will often be shocked to find that they are 20 years my senior.
Clearly, I have no concept of what age is supposed to look like and our current generations are changing all the rules about aging anyway.
On a brilliant Weblog about parenting (www.mommylife.net) by a woman who has more experience than most — being a mother to nine of her own, and then adopting several more for good measure — Barbara Curtis was recently mentioning the generational name for my age group. We are called Busters. I did not know that. Busters (or Generation X, GenXers) are the generation produced by the Baby Boomers. We are the just-under-40 set.
I have much more reading on the subject to do, but my first thought about being considered a Buster is that I like the term. There are many good things about busting out of a rut, busting a stereotype, busting through a wall or a glass ceiling that appeal to me. Perhaps we will be the generation that begins to see ourselves for what we really are, people who will age, and maybe we will learn to do it gracefully and welcome the added wisdom that a few years on this earth ought to bring us.
Maybe we will be the generation of Americans that starts to reflect some of the multi-cultural influences we are being raised with, that will welcome the attitudes we find in other cultures who revere their leading (or mentor) generations.
We have so much to learn from one another. My sons teach me constantly. I only hope that someday they will reflect back and consider that I may have taught them a thing or two as well. And I have so much to learn from the various mentors I enlist along the way — the women who have been married longer, who have more experience blending a family, who have been in business longer and survived the first few years when it seems so grueling. I treasure the women in my life who can lend a hand or a coffee break to encourage me in my pursuits.
I am not just producing a feeling of respect because I now have a gray hair, and am realizing I’m being promoted to a higher level. Luckily, I’ve always felt admiration for the people who have accomplished more than me.
As I move forward from this place, and move into all the crazy, uncharted territory of a rapidly expanding family of teenagers and all the friends they bring over, and the girls they will eventually date, I hope that I can maintain an attitude of admiration for the youthful outlook on life, while being able to put my foot down about what I feel is proper and right and healthy.
We need each other so much. We need our peers; we need our young people; we need our gray-haired mentors. This is not easy stuff, these paths we travel through life.
Today, especially, I am thinking of parents whose children are entering new territory, and the gray hairs being produced along the way.
Today is my nephew’s 21st birthday. He is celebrating or not, as the case may very well be, entrenched in the battleground of Iraq, with his brother Marines. If anyone has a right to a cherished new silver hair, it is my sister. As our children take on new challenges and grow wings to soar out into adulthood, we stand on the sidelines and cheer. We shed our tears, but silently and in the company of other parents and friends. They help us give the illusion of unwavering strength by supporting us and propping us up when our knees begin to buckle.
This article was published in the Fresno Bee, Valley Voices section on February 10, 2007.
Photo from here – an no – that is not me. But, what a happy, fun photo, right?