My son Ben just turned 10 years old. I like it for many reasons. But it is weird for many reasons too. I don’t care about how old it makes me seem. I embrace aging because getting older gives me an excuse to be fatter and not very cute. Did I just admit a bias about old people? Well, they are fat and not very cute. What do you expect? They’re old.
What is strange is that you can totally remember being 10. You’re like a real person. You have private jokes and favorite things. Parents are peripheral people; the 10 year old is the main character. My friends’ parents were always, in my mind, 2-dimensional characters that had little relevance to me outside of permission-granting and ride-giving. For example, my best friend in 2nd grade was named Sonja. All I knew about her parents was that her mom liked European things and her dad wrote the music to Windwalker. I remember learning the word “composer” but I don’t remember ever knowing Sonja’s mom’s name.
My friend Rachel’s parents seemed like cartoon characters to me then: her dad in his pajamas/underwear in the middle of a sleepover with a little dialog bubble over his head saying “You kids get to BED!!!” and smoke coming out of his ears. Seriously, that’s how I picture him. It has only been recently that I have started to think of Rachel’s parents as real people. I don’t mind but it is kind of freaky that I won’t seem like a real person to my kids’ friends. How best to make the most of this, I wonder–perhaps by wearing costumes.
The good thing about my 10-year-old is that he still thinks my husband and I are cool. And we are—because he likes what we like. But it won’t be long before what we like is just lame. The way I see it, you are totally into your family in grade school, then you get interested in other people’s families in high school. In college you are into your family again and then you get married and it just depends on whether your in-laws are insufferable. If they are, you cling to your family again just like you did in grade school. If they aren’t, you focus on your own new family and have your own kids and then they turn 10 and start thinking of you as a cartoon character.
It’s quite different from being pregnant or the mother of a newborn when your baby is like an accessory for you—dangling from a designer sling. Being a mom is a series of steps into the background.