I am looking down at Sophia from the parents’ observation room, a small airless space atop a flight of stairs, where moms and dads jockey for the few cushioned seats positioned in front of plate glass windows offering a view of the gym.
She’s over by the trampolines, mouthing something to me and gesticulating wildly. What is it she is trying to say?
I shrug my shoulders and silently scream, “What?”
Sophie pantomimes, exaggerating each word as she does, “I” (points to her eye), “can’t” (shakes her head no) “hear” (points to her ear), “you” (points to me).
“I’m not saying anything,” I mouth back. It’s one of those conversations that is completely devoid of content. “Go back to your class,” I add, pointing to the four girls who are each not sitting on a bench in their own unique way.
After all, this is why we bring them to gymnastics.
Meanwhile, another child nearby is mouthing to his mother, “I’m hot!” Rachel, the mom next to me, says audibly, “You want me to bring you your t-shirt?”
“I’m hot,” her son silently complains back.”
“Do. You. Want. Me. To. Bring. Me. Your. Shirt?” she repeats, her mouth opening much wider with each word this time.
Her son ignores her, taking his turn on the trampoline. Evan, a dad standing nearby says, “Let him be hot. He’ll learn. Next time he’ll change before class. That’s what I do with Ella. She never wants to wear a jacket, so I stopped making her. When she got cold, she finally put it on.” I nod in agreement. I’m all for natural consequences.
“Parenting is exhausting,” Rachel says to us. “This would be so much easier if I had started ten years earlier.” Rachel is the forty-something mother of an only child. Like me. She spent her thirties building up to partner in a law firm. With the hours she worked, there was no time for kids. There wasn’t even time to get pregnant.
Again I nod in agreement. “I know. I’m tired all the time.” I lean closer to her. We don’t know each other all that well, but I’m feeling a sense of solidarity. “I think I’m going through the changes,” I confide. Then I turn to Evan, “Sorry.”
“It’s fine by me,” he says. He’s the kind of dad who can hang with the moms. I think he might even prefer it.
“You too, huh?” says Rachel. “My period’s been wacky for about a year now.”
“Yes! Well, just within the last five months. But one month it’s three weeks, the next it’s five. I used to be so regular. Now I never know when it’s coming. So much for the app I just downloaded.” The app is supposed to tell me when my monthly bill is due. Finally, after forty-two years I should be able to have a tampon on me when I need one. Except I don’t. It’s like my body is doing this on purpose.
“I know,” Rachel sympathized.
It felt so good to talk to someone who did know.
“I had my hormones tested,” she said in a low voice.
“You did?” I was thinking of getting my hormones tested. We have so much in common.
“Yes, everything was down but my estrogen.”
“What can you do for that?”
“Does it help with the mood stuff?” I’ve been a little emotional of late. Like everything else, I’m blaming it on the changes.
“I think it does.”
“What a drag it is getting old,” I sigh. Evan nods.
“I just started needing reading glasses,” he admits. “I need three different lenses. One to see here. One to see here. And one to see here.” His hand chops the air in front of him.
“Do you have to keep switching glasses?” I asked. It sounded awful.
“No, I have special lenses, kind of like bifocals.”
“I think I might need glasses,” I told them. “My husband says that I hold everything a few feet out in front of me to read it.”
“You need glasses,” Evan tells me.
“I know. I just don’t want glasses.”
“Everybody needs glasses in their early 40’s. That’s when it happens,” Rachel chimes in. She pulls her long dark hair into a knot. She doesn’t look forty. Not even close.
We are silent for a moment.
“We need a group, for older moms like us. Women who got started later in life.”
“Isn’t that what this is?” I joke. “Maybe we should just run a group up here. While the kids are turning cartwheels.” Oh right. The kids. We all turn and wave to our children who are mouthing things we can’t hear.
It’s not a bad idea, really. I adore groups. Not random clusters at parties, and not exclusive little cliques, but groups that come together with a purpose. A mission. I could picture a small gathering of women—grappling together with the issues unique to older mothers. Recently I heard us referred to as the “sandwich generation”—caught between caring for our young children as we begin to care for our aging parents. Another geriatric mom on NPR talked about us as “the grayest generation” –a cohort of people who have waited until their 30’s to have children—and the concurrent rise in developmental and neurocognitive disorders among our offspring.
It would be nice to have some allies.
The next day I got a text from L. “Still thinking about a group for elderly moms…”
Yeah, me too.
This post was inspired by Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.