Act my AGE? No thank you. At the breakfast table recently, I got corrected for using the word “Yo.” I don’t know if it was embarrassing for me to use it because I’m middle aged, or not hip, or if it is not hip to say “yo”… I’d listened to the Fresh Prince song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by accident and “Yo” felt like the right choice at the time. Beastie Boys were also in rotation because I remember my wilder days and feel younger. It might feel a little mid life crisis, but I do not want to grow up and be the adult.
Parenting is the fastest way to grow up-and old-without noticing it. Being completely in charge of little people’s lives is draining. I eased my ‘adulting’ pain the first time when I had this epiphany of “What kind of parent do I want to be?” I’d been grouchy all day and I finally decided to ask my kids, both preschoolers at the time, what they wanted in a mommy. I was getting big life thoughtful with little kids. I wondered did they want me crafty? Scholarly? I bent low to their little faces and asked, “What kind of mommy do you want darlings?” Without missing a beat Little Portia said “I want a Purple Mommy!” It wasn’t deep (She was 5 at the time) but it was fun. It was playful and silly and clear: I could be any sort of mommy as long as I was purple! As long as I did not grow up.
I drafted a notepad manifesto of what a “Purple Mommy” was and have used it as a touchstone in my parenting. There are statements like “Encourage Laughter” and “Simple housekeeping” along with deeper thoughts of “Live towards God” and what became our family motto “Live Well”. My kids remind me when I slide away from being a purple mommy. Having them around makes me very aware of how I am living my life.
As they grew older and resisted correction and consequences I told them the Secret of Adulthood: All adults want to have fun all the time. Since parents are the rule guardians, kids need to know we actually prefer to have fun. The better behaved everyone is, the more energy we have for all the fun.
At work it is different. Even at a church we are cubicals and offices, staplers and business cards. There are meetings, some are boring. We recently had a staff leadership retreat and during one break, stiff and tired as I was, I decided to challenge my colleagues to a youthful game of tag. Let me be clear I am not a ‘run about’ sort of woman. I don’t do sporty, so suggesting a game of tag with a room full of grownups was quite a reach for me personally. I wanted all of us to shake off the weariness and have a bit of play. No one else wanted that. Not a single person played tag with me. I felt kind of stupid, BUT it was good for me to risk looking foolish. I never want to take myself too seriously. It was good for me to at least consider moving faster than a saunter, even if only in a single burst of play.
I don’t always dress my age, either. I mean, I’m not displaying my belly button ring or anything, but I have some fun. I color the under side of my normal hair teal and purple in the modern mullet of haircolor. I try wild prints and tulle princess skirts that make me smile. Lula Roe clothes have brought me out of my all black Chicago fashion style into happy prints and drapey fabric that make play and adventure possible.
I play with my words. I am quick to make a joke. I did not get mad when my kids upended a bag of glitter in my car to make me laugh…and I left it there for months. We purchased silly string to bomb a friend’s yard…haven’t used it, but knowing it is there makes me feel younger.
My husband and I watched Mark Maron’s comedy bit where he says “I don’t know how long I’ve got….” to get out of things he doesn’t want to waste his time doing. We love and use that sentence often because none of us knows how long we have. We don’t have to act our age. We can play even if we are grown up adults.
Even if people scowl at our youthful antics, we’ll know that we are showing them a better way. Their brain just needs time to catch up. Let’s not stop our play to wait for them. Remember, we were old once, too.
Music: "My Back Pages" by the Byrds