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As a mom to a tween, I’m acutely aware of this fact almost every single day.
2017 April, present day, and this mom now looks at the prospect of turning 39 in less than a week. At some level that scares her. It’s the ultimate and inexorable reminder that we cannot escape age. It will catch up with us, slowly and in a measured manner.
But at another level, she is glad. 39 years is a long time to be anywhere and if we don’t learn from those lessons now, when will we? Plus not all epiphanies happen when we turn 40. That’s just a myth perpetuated by the ’40 is the new 20′ saying (or is it the new 30?).
So while I wrote a post a couple of years ago about not celebrating birthdays anymore, I’ve found myself modifying that belief in the last year.
Let’s go back a bit; actually, let’s go back a lot. A few decades should do it. Picture a child going to school in her early teens. Every night, she’d lay out the pinafore, the crisply-ironed shirt, the tie that went with it, a belt that would buckle into place and fresh socks warmed on the radiator in the chilly climes of Nairobi, Kenya.
Every morning, she’d be up at 6 and attired in the uniform, bag on her back and shoes on her feet. That was it. There were no minutes spent before the mirror, checking for stray hairs, no using of moisturiser, not even a stick of vaseline to keep those lips from chapping. In short, there was nothing you could call remotely feminine in her non-existent make up routine.
It wasn’t that she didn’t care. It was simply that her mind didn’t work that way. That child grew up and became a mother. Only one thing changed between then and now for that person. She’d added precisely one thing to her daily routine: a stick of kajal to line her eyes. That and the fact that she was now a mom, of course.
Her tween neatly lines up and thinks about which nail polish would look good on her trimmed fingernails this week. She revels in them all- the pinks, the maroons, the blues and the greens (I’ve strategically hidden them in this picture , if you notice) and even an orange!
Her idea of dressing up outstrips mine any day. She’ll even spend an entire afternoon draped in a lehenga-choli at home, replete with accessories and ghungroos and break into fluid dance moves for fun. Me? I’m happy in my track pants and a loose kurta that will let me catch up on my afternoon siesta in peace.
Some days I wonder, really wonder, where she gets her energy, her enthusiasm and her zest for life. I’m energetic when it comes to things I like, but she’s energetic always!
She brought out all the nail colours and lined them up, saying, ‘You need to paint my nails.’ I’m the worst painter on the planet, for the uninitiated. Colours go ‘smack’ ‘glob’ and ‘yech’ when I try to apply them anywhere: a canvas, a vase and of course, nails. Yet, my daughter believes I’d do a good job. Even if it isn’t, I know I’d enjoy the bonding and the love during the process.
I almost shook my head violently, but one look at her eager face and I just melted. The day after she brought these out, she left for a week to be with her cousins.While I cleaned up the rest of her room in her absence, I haven’t touched the nail polish brigade. They stand at attention in her bay window, waiting with patient assurance that their general-in-chief will be back and command them to perform their duty.
I’m waiting too. I get to see her today after a week and it fills me with all kinds of joy.
Am I kinder as a parent? My yelling-less meter tells me I may be.
Am I perfect? No such thing. So I’ve stopped chasing that pipe dream.
Am I wiser? I’m still learning, always learning, so let’s hold off on that answer for a few years.
Am I happy? Right here, right now in this moment, as a parent, yes. That’s what I need.
I’ll probably never take with complete gusto to the idea of painted nails or maintaining them, but I’d gladly do it if it lets me collect moments that I can look back on and cherish when my memory begins to fail.
Growing older is going to be fun. Bring on the nail polish!