"Mama!! Can I have some milk?"
"Mama, I has a poop id mah diaper!"
"Mama!! The baby took my Batman!!"
"Mama!! I want eat!"
"Mama!" "Mama!" "Mama!!!"
The sound of my knees cracking is like small-arms fire as I get up from my seat at the table where I work, again, to tend to the needs of these small tyrants who live in my house. My back is on fire, my sciatica feels like a laser shooting down my leg, I pee a little when I sneeze.
I just turned 40. Most of the women I went to high school with have kids in high school themselves. I, however, have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. I'm from the South, and down here, having your first kid at 23 and being done by 30 is the norm. While having a baby after 35 (advanced maternal age, represent!) may not be a big deal in other parts of the country, it will earn you some side-eye and a starring role in more than a few gossip circles down here.
When you're pregnant at 35 or 36 or 40 and you see "AMA" in your file at your OB visit, it stings a little. Your pride puffs itself up and you bristle. "Advanced maternal age my foot! I'm only 37! It's not like I'm 55 over here trying to have a baby!" And so you rock your pregnancy. You rock it so hard no one would ever guess that it was any harder for you than it was for them when they were 25. And then you give birth and you bring home your gorgeous baby and you don't have to worry about that stupid AMA label on your file anymore because you just proved that it doesn't matter.
For me, the AMA wasn't anything, nothing to worry about, no big deal — until after I brought my gorgeous baby home. Then I realized that yeah, man, my knees hurt and I have to hold the instructions way out at arm's length so I can see how to put together the damned changing table and for the love of all that's holy don't make me bend over again, my back just can't take it.
I'm tired constantly. Not just sleepy, but tired deep down, to the bone. My hair is unwashed, my legs haven't seen a razor since last summer, I've got spit up on my shirt, and crumbs in my bra. And this goes on for months, well into toddlerdom.
So when I stumble into storytime or a playdate and I see all these fresh-faced, 20-something mamas and their adorable kids in their adorable smocked dresses and huge bows, I cry a little on the inside. And I question if I'm too old for this. Will I ever have my act together enough to deal with the stress and strain of being 40 and having a toddler?
It stands to reason that, in my area, there aren't many moms my age with kids the same age as mine. I cannot count the number of times I've been the oldest mom at the playdate, at the storytime, at the park. The only one not in yoga pants and an ironic graphic tee with a super trendy top knot and perfect eyebrows. The only one not on Snapchat (because seriously, what is Snapchat?) or Instagram the whole time. The only one who graduated high school in the '90s.
The only one with crows feet and smile lines.
It's not just that they're younger than me, it's that they're from an entirely different generation, with wholly different life experiences. Even our language is different.
And, to be honest, it's a little awkward.
They don't get my jokes or my references. Someone asked me who Zack Morris was. SERIOUSLY! When Kurt Cobain died, these people were in kindergarten. They don't remember what it's like to not have internet or smartphones. They don't get me at all. And, if I'm being honest, I don't really get them, either.
But this is where I find myself. Old and achey, maybe a little smelly, my eyebrows look the same now as they did in 1997, and I still wear capri pants that aren't yoga pants. My graphic tees are actually from the places they say they're from and I'm ambivalent about unicorns. I'm just a mom who is creeping up on middle age and trying not to break myself, physically or mentally, by keeping up with two little kids.
And it's awesome. Hard, but amazing. I'm glad I didn't have kids until my late 30s. I got to spend my 20s living. L-I-V-I-N-G, you know? I got to do a little bit of traveling, a little bit of partying, a little bit of exploring and learning, all with my husband, before we got old and tired. We got to live on a mountain in a cabin and drive the entire Pacific Coast Highway. We got to wean ourselves off college for a good long time, before we had to be responsible for anyone other than ourselves, and it was perfect.
I have no regrets about my decision to be AMA, I just wish my knees didn't hurt so badly.
If I see you at the park or the library, I'll be nice, like an ambassador from an older generation. And who knows, maybe we'll be friends, and you can take me to get my eyebrows done.