I got a late start as a mom. My little girl was born when I was in my mid-thirties. When I show up at her school for classroom parties and field day events, some of her friends think I’m her grandma. The fact that many of their mothers are almost young enough to be my daughter creates an interesting time warp for me.
Daughters – The Self-Esteem Busters:
The time warp is amplified by the fact that, as any mom will tell you, kids are living self-esteem busters. Especially little girls. They’re quick to let you know about your new gray hairs or any blemishes that appear on your face, the coffee you drip on your shirt, the dress that starts to fit you a bit too tightly. If they see a lady on a TV commercial whose smile has gotten three shades brighter because she just tried a new teeth-whitening product, they’ll recommend the product to you the first chance they get. My sweet angel, Sarah, is no exception. She means no harm by it; she comes by her blunt remarks as honestly as any other kid born without filters.
So while the truth of my advancing age is no surprise to me, it hit home for me in a new way the other night. My daughter got right in my face with reality–literally.
At bedtime, she read aloud to me from one of her “Scholastic News” handouts. They’re miniature newspapers passed out periodically in classrooms around the country, and the one she chose this time featured ways wild animals beat the summer heat. We read about hippos in Africa whose bodies make their own sticky sunscreen, kit foxes in Arizona whose furry paws enable them to run across the scorching sand, and silver ants in the Sahara Desert whose shiny backs reflect the heat of the midday sun.
The strangest animal we encountered was the Thorny Devil, a spiny lizard from the deserts of central Australia. Because it lives in such an arid environment, the Thorny Devil collects water by letting scarce rainfall and nighttime dew pool up in the grooves between its spines. Then the precious water trickles along the grooves on the lizard’s body, eventually ending up in its open mouth.
As Sarah read, she reached out and stroked my forehead and cheek. I sighed, enjoying the unexpected caress. For a moment, I was lulled into a false sense of contentment.
Then with the tip of her index finger. “Mom, you don’t have spines, but you have grooves.”
“Grooves?” I frowned. “I have grooves?”
Sarah’s index finger moved down to my cheek and began tracing around the curve of my nose toward the place where my lips parted. “If you sit outside when it rains, does the water collect in these grooves and trickle into your mouth?”
So much for any last hope I might have had of being a reasonably attractive woman of middle age. “What in the world are you talking about?”
“The lines on your forehead and around your eyes and lips.”
After I finished tucking Sarah into bed, I asked her dad about the state of my complexion, since as a blind person, the thought of wrinkles had never really crossed my mind. I knew elderly people got wrinkles, but my face still felt as smooth under my fingertips as it ever had, and I’d never really given the idea of lines around my eyes and mouth a passing thought.
“You look fine. Not young, not old,” he said in a maddeningly offhanded way, hardly glancing up from his hockey game. “Nobody would believe you if you said you were thirty; nobody would believe you if you said you were fifty. Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t worry about it? Really?” I muttered as I walked away. “Easy for you to say! You can see yourself in the mirror!”
And there I have it. My daughter tells me I look like a Thorny Devil, and her dad says not to worry about it. I think I’ll sit out on my front porch tomorrow. There’s rain in the forecast.