Thirteen years ago, a 50-year-old woman giving birth to full-term 8 pound twins was big news in my small town and my family appeared on the front page of the Pensacola News Journal. Fifteen minutes of fame was soon replaced with remarks about our lucky grandchildren; compensating with generalizations like, “Children keep you young,” and, “Older parents have more patience.” Now, as older parents raising teens (when other people are thinking about retirement), what are we getting ourselves into?
Truthfully, as older parents raising teenagers, we are not living out our unrealized dreams through them, and we knew about paying on one end or paying on the other, so we did the heavy lifting early that is sustaining us during the teenage years. Our advantage stems as much from the generations in which we came of age as our chronological years, and provides the backdrop for raising what my husband proudly calls “our little anachronisms.”
Being An Older Parent Is An Experience
Steve was born and raised in Boston in the 1930’s with the Cleavers. A Navy fighter pilot and commercial airline captain, he raised his first three sons in the 60’s in Southern California. I would jump from a burning building if Steve said, “Jump,” and be absolutely certain he would catch me. He’s got it and he knows it.
A Jersey girl, I was born in the late 1940’s, definitely not with Ward and June. These are my first children, and I am the product of good therapy, not good parenting. Before becoming a mother, I enjoyed a long career as a flight attendant in Southern California. The only thing I know for certain is that they will wind up on the couch one day blaming me for everything that went wrong.
“When I was a boy” takes on a whole new meaning in our household. In Dad’s day, children really were seen and not heard–well-mannered and respectful, and NOT smarter than we are.
When the boys were around three, I experienced the first of many humbling experiences, when I became one of those mothers who couldn’t control her children in the store. They knew that, “If you don’t stop that, I’m going to ___,” was the same empty threat as the one I make when I’m on the phone. I’m not leaving the groceries or hanging up.
Dad, on the other hand, issued one warning on their shopping adventure. Misbehave again and he would leave the groceries and spank them in the car before leaving the parking lot. They didn’t believe him. Steve apologized to the manager for the imposition of returning a full cart of groceries to the shelves and explained why. The manager shook his hand; customers and cashiers applauded. The spanking and time-out were balanced with playful love and affection. Thereafter, they behaved like Stepford children in public and as teenagers now.
This would become one of the main patterns in the tapestry of our unique, some might say upside-down family. Good or bad, they know the consequence of their behavior. As for patience, like the tortoise said to the hare “plodding wins the race.”