When writing to prompts, there are ones that appeal and ones that don't. This one appealed because 'coming to terms with how different I am now than in my youth,' is an active thing I wrangle with, and it isn't something I have achieved. Who would if they believed people de-evolve once they reach the prime of life? Or if they believe growing old should refer to a state of maturity and wisdom, not a state of becoming physically decrepit.
Maturity is a state of mind because aging is compulsory but growing up is optional. Those who choose the latter do not need to change much emotionally and mentally. Bodies will still age. Whether we approach it with mature resignation, kicking and screaming, or denial, we have no choice.
It reminds me of a dear friend's mother who finally needed to wear glasses to improve her sight. Instead of being thrilled to be able to see so much better, she looked in the mirror and said that she hated how she looked, on noticing how wrinkled she had become. She preferred not to wear glasses!
There are gradual physical differences when aging, which are unpleasant to witness in ourselves or our loved ones. For example, my hair used to be thicker and glossier. It has thinned and is going grey. I still have all my teeth, except those removed years ago, to make way for the braces of my youth. Thankfully, you can't say about me, "Your teeth are like stars. They come out at night." I also can't soften the look of my wrinkles as I need glasses. My hearing is fine but I no longer enjoy listening to loud music. I feel the cold more, can't stay up late partying, exhaustion sets in quicker, multi-tasks are on a shorter list. I leap out of bed just as quickly but it's a quick dash to the bathroom that calls not the anticipation of a new day.
Evolving gives the hope of something better. However, aging is Devolution, having lost the power to do anything about the inevitable. There may be a multi-billion-dollar industry to stop the middle-aged from losing their youth but it happens. Many indulge in trying to reverse this, proving that many do not want to look different from their younger selves. One thing that hasn't changed about me is a reluctance to spend money, which I don't have, on efforts to prevent the inevitable demise of youthful beauty. Yet, I will fight superficial old age as long as I can.
Growing older is a topic too dismal to contemplate. Now, I've become old enough to accept with great sadness that my mother has changed profoundly from her youth. I find it unacceptable to imagine life without her. Thank goodness I am typing this, or tears would cover the page. I now find anything about death makes me think of my dear mother. I have not come to terms with the changes in her from her younger self.
So, let's forget about the external and look at the internal instead. The most relevant changes are in my outlook and disposition. I can accept these, even though some who know me say I haven't changed. As if they would know. Descriptions like 'stubborn,' 'tactless,' 'a know-it-all,' 'hasn't learned how to say "no" when asked to do too much.' 'She walks away rather than argues,' and 'she still has the same dry sense of humour, in a minute quantity.'
The most profound change in my life and outlook occurred when child number six came into our lives. My husband and I still had one grown-up son at home and enjoyed our grandchildren who did not live with us. Until . . . one day, one of them did.
We ensured that everything necessary had been provided, before her birth, for her and her older siblings. The pregnancy went to full term with some concerns about her growth rate. She would be tiny, so appropriately, we bought smaller garments. At the point of near death, she was removed from her mother and transferred to a neonatal unit. Due to circumstances, she went to her paternal grandparents at seven months. We became her carers after this and obtained her custody and guardianship. I won't relate the process or the reasons for it. Had her transition been temporary, I would have been relieved.
At a relatively young age, I had felt maternally fulfilled, and pursued my life and interests (including writing). My husband and I looked forward to fun times with our children becoming independent and off our hands. Here we were, totally immersed in parenthood once again. Or at least grandparent-hood but without the luxury of being able to spoil the kid rotten and then hand the carefully cultivated monster back to their parents.
In time, this baby became one of my own, comparable to where someone has an unplanned child, gradually comes to terms with it, and concludes that it's the best thing that could have happened. I never believed this could happen. In no time, I became tuned into her needs and wants. I already knew what food she preferred and what songs soothed her. I soon knew when she was tired as she seemed at her most energetic a minute before falling asleep. This knowledge saved us because if one waited too long, she became over-tired. I've never known a child to have such an adverse reaction to being over-tired. I'd never known a child to have such extreme reactions to many other things. Her temperament proved to be volatile.
Soon our visitors would come into our home and look around in surprise. "It looks like a little girl has taken over here." Nine years on, it still looks like that. The house is also now littered with piles of different projects she needs to finish, or I need more time to complete my own. Her creativity needs to be in sync with her attention span. I've changed. My desire to tidy is out of sync with the 24 hours a day at my disposal. My husband bought me two plaques. One states, "Dust experiment in progress. Don't disturb the samples," and the other, "I only do housework on days which don't end with the letter, 'y'."
Something I've found amusing is that my oldest boy had a diagnosis of ADHD at age 5. (You can imagine how he impacted our family life) I read a book about it and applied what I learned. It gave me the semblance of knowing what I was doing, though some days I got to the end of a crazy day and just sat and cried. This little girl, number six in the pecking order, had more issues and behaved degrees worse than the combined antics of the five others. It has been a case of, we were careful not to wish for it and thought we had enough precautions to prevent it (support of her family). It happened anyway. Despite the initial shock, we now have come to terms with the situation better than if we had been younger. We can't imagine life without her.
We have had to come to terms with the fact that we cannot predict how she will turn out or how long we can keep doing all we do for her. We can't turn the clock back. We are different from our younger selves but this is due to her presence in our lives.
This little girl has the energy of a battery bunny which keeps going and going and going. She is impulse driven and has no fear. I'm convinced that she has a monkey gene. We do not have as much energy as our younger selves, yet I felt I had to keep going and going to keep up with her.
Before she started school, I attended a parenting course and took her to a psychologist. (After I’d grown up with four younger siblings and raised five children. Who would have believed it?) The biggest thing I have had to admit is that I didn't know everything about children. This notion is different from the feelings of my younger self. I have come to terms with what I didn't know.
Our girl's diagnosis is not a diagnosis at all. She has sensory issues. If this is all her harrowing start to life has left her with, we should be grateful. I've since learned that families raising a child or children with sensory issues do believe that Sensory Processing Disorder is a thing. We are not surprised. The non-labelled status of these issues may change. These issues are currently accepted as part of conditions with which they are usually associated, not in isolation.
We have thought a few things about her. Maybe she has Attention Deficits? Could she be gifted? She has a gift for movement and dancing, a great outlet for her energy. As for school learning, she gets distracted easily. She is aware of this and, so far, tries very hard to complete her work. She would prefer to be at home but she loves her friends. We believe that she attends school for their company . . . and her lunch. Other young ones adore her as she naturally befriends different personalities and ages. Adults love her as well.
On another bright note, she is very loving and funny. She has brought a lot of joy and laughter into our lives. I have developed a sense of humour as an adult, and I will relate several little stories about her opinionated self, that have made us laugh a lot.
Four-years-old. We regularly have Japanese students staying with us. We converse over our main meal and ask them questions about their lives and country. We asked our student, "Do you drink Saki?"
Our student replied that she didn't.
Miss four piped up and said, "I do!"
We said, "No you don't."
"Yes I do."
To which we replied, "No, you don't!"
Miss four dashed away from the table and, opened the fridge. "Yes, I do!" She held up a yoghurt 'sucky' (A bought pouch of yoghurt with a small screw lid) for all to see, proving that saki sucks!
Five-years-old. The local High School had invited Miss five and her family to a Quiz Night. To prepare, our teenage exchange student looked up some quiz questions on her phone via the internet.
She quizzed us. Most questions posed no problem. One question, however, had us thinking of all the definitions of the word "bogey." There were four multiple-choice options, none mentioning anything gross. The only one remotely sensible had to do with golf. We began a debate on what golf term it stood for. It named, in truth, a score of one over par.
Miss five put in her two cents worth, and was correct, of course. "No, it's not that. It's up your nose!"
Eight-years-old. Miss eight is developing early for her age. I have had to lock away my makeup and reduce the frequency of wearing it, to set a good example of how unnecessary it is. She notices every minute change with fascination and can't wait to grow up. She found a small pimple on her nose. She now diligently washes her face twice or more a day, as she doesn't want pimples. She is learning that wearing a crop under her t-shirts and thin tops looks nicer due to changes in her profile. She applies a body spray when doing gymnastics or sports. So far, no extra body hair.
The other evening before her shower, she screamed and called me to come in. I rushed in, thinking she'd hurt herself. She stood examining an armpit in the mirror.
"What on earth is the matter?"
"I've got hairy armpits. I can count three hairs! Will I have to shave?"
I looked hard, couldn't see anything, and advised her not to show everyone. It is wishful thinking at this stage.
At this point, we have had to come to terms with the fact that she has a bigger personality than us. Her dance teacher has said, "I have no idea where she will end up, but I'm convinced it will be on a stage." Not only do we have to accept that we are getting older, but we have to accept that we fade into the background in her presence.
And I used to be called a force to reckon with!
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A lighthearted piece which is a happy surprise with this prompt! I was a bit taken back by the mention of the prompt, existential for some reason, but reading more, and getting a taste of your tone, I felt like I truly got to know something about you and your family. I would’ve loved a bit more of a swing back around at the end. I’m happy to read about adventures with your hilarious and strong willed granddaughter, but would’ve like maybe a paragraph at the end to wrap it all up a little more cohesively with the start of the perspective o...
Thanks for that. Great advice. Left it too late in the week to really think it through. Thanks for reading.