Defining age. Oh, yes, I grew up knowing about defining ages. I have heard it and seen it in action from when I was a small child to the present.
When I was growing up, I had an older male cousin who married late. Most boys where I lived were married in their late teens or early 20s. I remember my parents saying that he was a confirmed bachelor. It was too late for him to find love and make a family, since bearing children after mid-30s was dangerous. Women by the same token married young and were considered spinsters if they weren’t married after a certain age. Defining age.
Back then children were not immune to this age thing. Children were to be seen and not heard. You really didn’t have a valid thought of your own until you were at least around the fifth grade. If you were a talkative child or one who had an opinion, you were maybe ignored or the adult nodded and smiled. We were not considered having minds that took in info and had opinions. We were just children. Impatience with an overactive child was usually met with discipline instead of understanding. It was something passed on from another age.
Young women back in the ’50s and ’60s had little future beyond being a wife, secretary, nurse or teacher. Even then, women working with children at home was frowned on. Women did not think in terms of careers. It was a defining age.
Defining age. My mother thought that clothing should be dark and not “frivolous” after the age of 40. She seemed to wear navy blue often. I noticed that other older women were doing the same. Their clothing became more dated, and they didn’t seem to care about changing with the times. The hairstyle was the same as it had always been. When my mother was older, her daughters encouraged her to wear bright prints and pants. She loved it.
As a young parent, I tried to follow everything I was taught just as my mother had from hers. I didn’t think outside the box. I was defined by the past. Those messages that were embedded in my head had me on a path that would later lead to navy blue if I didn’t change. It was then that I decided to define age. In my 40s, I made the conscious decision to open my mind to new possibilities and to break away from the confines of my own past. My idea about parenting and grand-parenting changed. The only thing that had held me back in the past was myself. I found that as this new awareness expanded so too did the gifts that were given to my life.
Last week Loren and I were playing basketball with Nolan and Emma. Now I was never good at the game and not sports-minded in the least. Being 71-plus years old and having just had a bad fall, I was a little gun shy of running around guarding a 6 year old. I envisioned all the old people in my growing up years who sat back and watched kids. Those who didn’t talk to children, because either they didn’t care or didn’t know how. One thing I have learned and have experienced is that no matter how uncomfortable or scared it makes you, if you don’t try to be involved, you short change your grandkids and yourself. I definitely could not keep up with Nolan. He is like a crab, skittering side to side with the ball; however, he (and his grandma) were quite surprised when she made a few baskets. I had so much fun! I never played basketball with my kids and missed that experience. Loren said that even if I was only able to sit on the sidelines, I would still bounce and toss a ball. I have been awkward at times in new experiences with my family, but I will not let my age and discomfort define me.
We are defining age. You and I. There is less navy blue and black and more red and green on me and my friends. There is no old age in our lives. We drop everything to listen to the children. We are capable accepting new challenges, learning new games, finding new ways to help our children. We are not letting age define us. There truly is no defining age. There are only defining people.
Pamela Loxley Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.