By the time we hit the ripe old age of 20, chances are, we have uttered the phrase, “I’m too old for this.”
Maybe it was in regards to the toys we once loved, the shows we once enjoyed, or (most likely) the behaviors we at one time excused.
Youth has a way of tricking us into believing that the things we love are foundational. Maturity, usually with the wrath of a sleep-deprived toddler, shows us that almost everything is seasonal.
I’ve been too old on many occasions. For me, such occasions tend to involve rum and/or loud music.
The tricky piece is that coming to a place that you’ve outgrown something is individualized. Time and circumstance changes us all at different rates. As I type this there is a forty–something-year-old woman preparing to go to the clubs.
I’m listening for the dryer to buzz so I can change into my favorite elastic-waist pants before lounging with a young-adult fiction book.
The beauty of the dichotomy is that both of us are going to be fabulous with our chosen pursuits. Being too old isn’t a numbers game, it’s a mindset that defies the numbers.
I’m too old for the clubs, but that other nameless woman I mentioned, she’s too old for the books I enjoy.
As I quickly approach my 42nd birthday I no longer find myself too old.
Quite the opposite.
I’m in a season that time has failed to prepare me for.
My parents tried. They gave it their all. Honestly, every moment they could, they warned me. Whenever I would dream of the future there was always an undertone from my parents.
I hope we live to see it.
Whether it was in regards to my future baby’s names or the next color I may dye my hair, my parents had a way of reminding me they wouldn’t live forever.
Imagine being a young girl filled with dreams of blonde, luxurious, highlights and the most supportive comment you get is, “Do you want us to die seeing you with a hair color God didn’t give you?”
My mom was 35 and my dad 40 when I was born. These ages, though much more common now, were not the majority in 1976. Though my mother would frequently praise God for blessing her with a third baby that she had given up hope on having, she struggled with guilt believing her and my father would leave me too soon.
Her worry was for nothing.
Forty-two years later, I still have my parents. A blessing many would give anything to say. This blessing has created a unique season for me. A season many others are facing or will face one day.
I have 3 daughters blossoming into beautiful young women and an 82 year-old father whose health is failing.
I’m in the Disney and dementia season.
Known as the sandwich generation, I belong to a group of people that are caring for their minor children and their aging parents. I’m stuck between two generations that both rely on me to protect them, make decisions for them, and be their cavalry when trouble arises.
Because of my career, I have a unique perspective. I deal with so many families of all different backgrounds. Different education levels. Religious beliefs. Economic statuses. They all have faced their own challenges and have celebrated their own victories. One thing I’ve noticed, in the majority of these families, I’m closer in age to their granddaughters than the daughters.
With the changes in our culture and the advances in modern medicine, the trends are changing. The age gap is growing between parent and child. Many of us are on this journey and there are many more to come.
It’s a blessing and a curse.
I have more energy than my older counterparts (that is an urban legend, I’m perpetually exhausted), but less resources. I have more patience, but less life experience. I have more creative solutions, however my time is limited.
I’m useful, yet somehow lacking.
It didn’t take long for the constant changing roles that I’m now playing to wear on me. On any given day I was calling doctor’s offices to get lab results on my dad’s Coumadin levels, while rushing to get my daughter’s uniform ready before we had to leave for her game.
The downshifting from daughter to mom was leaving me feeling like a failure in all my roles.
But then God gave me one of those wonderful hugs. (You’ll notice this happens often. He hugs me quite a bit.)
On a particularly stressful day I said to my daughter, “This isn’t the end of the world.” I had forgotten to sign a permission slip for her. Again. Her sigh indicated she was put-off by this.
After I said it, I realized I had said the same phrase to my frustrated mother in regards to my dad just a few hours prior.
Light bulb moment.
When I added this new role into my life I was sucked into that labyrinth that so many new moms are struggling with. I had unwittingly slipped into the belief that controlled perfection was attainable. If I kept all my ducks in a row I would be a caregiving rock star.
Come on Lori!
I’d been freed from this mentality years ago in regards to my kids. I. Am. The. Perfect. Mom. (For my heathens.) Not because I could control everything or because I was perfect, but because when God was considering my children, He looked down over all of us and said, “That hot mess right there! She’s the one.” My hot mess status is a nonissue.
Maybe I don’t have to be a different person for my various caregiving roles. Was I thinking so much about the different hats I had to wear that I missed the fact the hats were eerily similar?
What did all my loved ones need?
What I say to my kids – “I know you can do this. I believe in you.”
What I say to my aging parents – “I know you can still do this. I believe in you.”
Kids – “What’s the worst that can happen? You fail?”
Aging Parents – “What’s the worst that can happen? We have to increase your dose?”
Kids – “I’ll be there for you no matter what.”
Aging Parents – “I’ll be there for you no matter what.”
Kids – “I catch you on that phone after 9pm and it’s mine!”
Aging parents – “I catch you in that car after 9pm and it’s mine.”
Maybe this sandwich generation isn’t as doom and gloom as I once thought.
From where I stand, I may have people of different ages needing something from me, but they all need the same thing. What all of us need.
Love. Support. Someone they can count on.
And when that doesn’t work…
Someone that will confiscate the crap that will harm them.
Now that I’ve figured out I don’t have to change my hat when caring for my loved ones, I need to figure out how to stop wearing baseball hats and care for myself.
I’ll keep you posted.