On Halloween, I was gripped with a realization that felt crazier than a Tom Cruise speech at a Scientology convention. When my mother was my age (38), she had an 18-year-old moving out of her house. There’s surely no way someone as young, fresh and spry as me could ever have an 18-year-old.
The math just doesn’t work. Does it? DOES IT?!
My parents had my sister at 20 years old, my brother at 25 and me at 30. As an aside, my mom highly recommends spacing your kids out, because apparently some 10-year-olds are built-in eager little babysitters. Mom barely remembers my childhood years — mostly because I was in my sister’s room listening to Debbie Gibson cassette tapes.
With that said, even though they are vibrant, spry and don’t look a day over 52 (they read this column), they were in their 40s when my sister first starting having children and in their mid-to-late 60s when I started having mine. My mom often jokes that my sister had her at her prime, while I have her when she really just wants to get her novel done.
But I’m a touch needy so, alas, her novel isn’t quite finished.
I had my girls four to six years later than my mom had me and, as a 38-year-old woman, I feel like I am just beginning to need my mom’s peace, calm and gentle wisdom. What would I do without her willingness to help me problem-solve through rashes, potty training, preschool social interactions and rubbery pie crusts?
I have told both my parents how comforting it’s been for me to know they will both be centenarians and that when they pass, they’ll be so old I’ll actually be quite elderly myself, saying things like, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Ma, go toward the light! I’ll see you in a few.”
Yet, babies can cause unwelcome flashes of mortality. They shoot us up into the clouds with endless hope of bright, beautiful futures while simultaneously crashing us down into reality. When Lucy and Poppy are my age, I will be well into my 70s. Remember when Ezekiel Emanuel said he thinks no one should live past 75? I will just be getting started!
If my girls are going to need me as much as I need my mom, I had better be spry enough to get up off a deep-seated couch, y’all. I have never been so laser-focused on my health than at this moment. All my life I’ve wavered between a little overweight to pretty chubby. I’ve used food to celebrate, drown sorrows, alleviate boredom and procrastinate. And while I was quite athletic in my teens and 20s, once I started taking writing seriously, my Fitbit started to get judgmental.
“I mean, would it kill you take 10 steps?” would flash across its screen.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been in a drawer ever since.
And yet, I know that adult women need their mothers, and I owe it to my girls to do everything I can to be healthy, vibrant, strong and clear-headed. I can’t bear the thought that, as they raise their own babies, they also have to worry about my ability to get down a narrow flight of stairs.
Certainly, I can’t predict what’s ahead, and with the way people text and drive these days, I’m lucky if I make it to next Tuesday. But this is my chance, right now, to be a fit, fun, organic-kale-eating bad mama jama in my senior years. And I think I’m gonna take it seriously this time.
I guess it starts with me throwing out all of the leftover Halloween candy. And getting my judgy Fitbit out of the junk drawer.
Anna Lind Thomas is a humor writer and mom to daughters Lucy and Poppy and English bulldog Bruno, wife to Rob Thomas and founder of HaHas for HooHas. She writes for momaha.com.