Last month, I passed a milestone. It has now been five years and one month since I was last pregnant, a record amount of non-pregnancy time since I first began the motherhood adventure 21 years ago. I will never breastfeed again, never change my own baby's diaper, watch my own toddler take a shaky first step, or send my child to a first playdate. In a few months, my youngest child begins kindergarten. The young mother phase of my life will officially end. Never one to linger in one stage of life when another beckons, I watch its passing with little reluctance. Still, somehow I envisioned a rather more gradual transition from mommyhood to this pause in the shadow of approaching menopause.
Life travels on, marked milestone by milestone, and I find the changing landscape around me intriguing. I shuffle reading glasses on and off the bridge of my nose, not yet willing to commit to the bifocals I should wear. A once enviable metabolism disappeared long ago, and despite my unwavering commitment to regular exercise, an unflattering muffin top persists in spilling over the belt of my not quite in fashion jeans. My resume, brimming with promise a decade ago, now sports a gigantic hole that would qualify me more for cleaning the office that once boasted my name on the door. I find myself more often in a mentoring role now, and the children I used to babysit have children in shoulder pads or scout uniforms. My own sister recently posted a picture of her fourth grandchild.
And yet...I have to agree with the old John Denver song that says "it turns me on to think of growing old." I do shudder at the thought of becoming decrepit, but I certainly have noticed an amount of sweetness in this ripening process brought on by a few years of experience. I suppose the fact that my parents have aged so well helps a great deal.
I realized a while back, to my pleasant surprise, that I no longer feel the need to win every race in life. My companions on the road look less like competition and more like inspiration. Their successes lift me up rather than reminding me of my failings, perhaps because life has made me acquainted with myself. While I still challenge myself, still push my comfort zone and reach for my personal best, I have come to understand my own rhythms and how to let those rhythms propel me forward.
As I leave toddler dreams behind, I find myself growing with my children. I love mothering older children, watching their personalities emerge and sharing their excitement as the world expands in front of them. I also love contemplating with my husband the not-so-distant-as-it-used-to-be possibility of an expanding world of our own. While this middle phase of life finds me vaguely adrift, searching for a path and just the right answer to the eternal question of "what shall I be when I grow up," I like the view from here, with my fingers trailing in the water and the stars all around. Life holds promise, and I have time.