Ok, Christy quick pop quiz this morning. What have you learned in the past four decades?
Nothing! I don’t know anything. I’m not good at being a grownup. Since I wasn’t entirely successful at childhood either, this worries me a bit. What’s left? I don’t know how to do things. I don’t know the protocols. Someone was talking about a restraining order the other day – where do you go for that? Apparently there’s a line with a window. I’m endlessly grateful to be the resident of a county where it seems that no court cases are ever heard. I hear people talking about jury duty, and they could be speaking in Tongues for all I can tell. The simple act of clearing traffic violations or parking tickets twists me into a confused boiling knot of stomach acid. I had to be handheld throughout the entire process of purchasing our house eleven years ago – it was only during that agonizing period that I learned the definition of “escrow.”
I still don’t understand property taxes or how ours get paid. I never could balance a checkbook. Compound interest, annuities, trusts, these are all words that grownups toss around. I don’t have a clue. And, don’t even get me started on credit default swaps.
Take a breath. I didn’t ask what don’t you know; I asked what have you learned. You haven’t just been sitting in front of the TV for 40 years, have you? Think.
Ummmm…. I know always to turn my face toward the butt when holding a foal so that it doesn’t break my nose.
Not broadly useful information, but it’s a start. Go on…
I know that you should never go anywhere with kids without baby wipes and some band-aids.
Good, now you’re getting it.
I know never to hit “reply all” without being sure that I really wanted the whole world to read that particular thought.
I’ve learned not to say “I’ll never.” I’ve done way too many of the “nevers.”
I’m better at saying “I don’t know.” But, God! There’s just so freaking much that I don’t know!
Don’t panic. I can hear your heart pounding from here. Dial it back a bit. Go for the specifics.
I know that rolling clothes packs a suitcase more efficiently than folding.
There, see, this isn’t that hard.
I know that sentiment is bad for children and for animals.
Would you care to expand on that answer?
It doesn’t do any good to get all sympathetic and gushy when something is going wrong. Animals are looking for a strong pack leader, and kids panic if they think that the grownups are falling apart.
Ok, good. Keeping your head, I like that.
I’ve learned that my “comfort zone” is just my brain’s fancy term for prison.
We’re getting a little metaphysical here; don’t want to be too pretentious.
Hey! Who’s taking this test, anyway?
I’m just trying to keep you on track; looking out for your final score.
Ok, fine. I’ve learned that clicking the mouse incessantly doesn’t make the computer work faster. Sometimes things just take time.
Did you just try to slide a metaphor in there?
Ok, what else have you got?
I’ve learned that my mom was wrong. Wearing a low-cut blouse won’t make people call me cheap. Or, if they do, it’s far enough behind my back not to worry me. I’ve also learned that the ability to carry off a low-cut blouse is one of the few physical benefits of having borne children.
You’re a wife and mother. How can you be indulging your vanity and sexuality?
I’m a wife and mother. I’m not dead or in a convent. My existence didn’t cease the day I put on a ring or the moment I first became pregnant. I’m still a person independent of those ties. Besides, my husband likes my tops!
Ok, I think that’s all we needed to know there.
Fine. Here, you want parenting? I’ve learned that I like my children much better when they haven’t been watching TV, any TV, content is irrelevant. I also like them better when they haven’t been eating food that comes in bright, individually wrapped packages.
No TV or junk food? Isn’t that a bit harsh?
I didn’t say I was perfect. We break that rule way too often. But, we regret it every time. The hangover really sucks.
Hangover, huh? What have you learned about drinking?
Fruit drinks are evil. Water, lots of water. Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink. Port is good – well, good port is good; cheap port is cough syrup. Pinot noir goes great with salmon.
Sound, practical advice. Anything else?
Kids won’t die if they go outside without a jacket. If you let them forget the jacket and refuse to go back home or buy them a new one, they’ll remember it next time. And, if they say they aren’t cold, they probably aren’t. I think their molecules move faster than ours do.
Getting old, huh?
Nope! I have a friend who says “you aren’t allowed to say that you’re old until you’re 108.” But, Advil is my friend.
See, you’ve learned more than you realize. Do you have any more, for a bonus point?
Fear is an anchor; cut the rope and see where the current carries you.
Friends and family are forever, but only if you reach out. Shyness and modesty, not wanting to “bother” are narcissistic traps.
Speak up. Your thoughts won’t help anyone inside your head.
Always pack a spare pair of nylons.
Put lip balm in every purse.
Never be without a pocket knife.
Life is an open book test; it’s okay to peek over your neighbor’s shoulder, but be aware that they may not be working on the same question.
Ok, I’m done. I’m forty; my fingers are getting tired.