By Viv Sade
Sometimes people ask my advice, although I strongly advise against it.
It’s because — well, you name it — I’ve probably done it. Kids got head lice? Been there, done that. Been audited by the IRS? Oh, yeah. Divorced? Double yeah. Breast cancer survivor? Check. Brain tumor survivor? Check. Accompanied a kid to juvey court after he was caught at a teenage beer bash? I know the drill.
Because I technically had two families — my two older kids were teens/young adults when I had my second two children — I am often asked if it is better to have kids when one is older rather than younger and whether I was more relaxed when I was older or energetic when I was younger.
I had the usual worries and panics when the kids were sick or got hurt, but was never a neurotic, helicopter mom. But that can be attributed to being a stubborn and rebellious child myself and to being the oldest of numerous siblings. I was not overly surprised by frogs in the bathtub, shoes in the toilet or a kid in a Spiderman suit on top of the refrigerator.
My oldest daughter swears that when she was at an impressionable, psyche-forming age she had a fever of 101 degrees, threw up twice and I put her on the school bus anyway, telling her to have the teacher call me if she really got sick. I don’t remember it that way at all and the tale of the incident has grown with each passing year.
But her brother, my oldest son, backs her up. They often gang up on me which is easy because they now have twice the memory and can beat me in arm wrestling. He likes to point out that he noticed at a young age my complete lack of empathy and anxiety over potentially fatal childhood diseases. Keep in mind this was the kid who — at the age of eight — had concocted a mixture of catsup, bread, oatmeal and raw eggs, dumped the entire mess in the toilet and then ran out of the bathroom, screaming that he was sick and absolutely, positively could not go to school. This was, coincidentally, on spelling quiz day and he had no idea what that week’s words were, let alone how to spell them, because he had stuffed his homework inside a hollow tree trunk — far from prying parental eyes.
“Come look Mom,” he said wide-eyed and breathless. “I think I have Polioinnoculation. I’m dying, for sure, so I can’t go to school.”
Having already noticed the open box of oatmeal and the egg shells in the sink when we had not had either one for breakfast, I calmly walked into the bathroom — my son’s alleged scene of death.
I agreed with him, took his fever and told him he had a fever of 119 degrees. I frowned with concern.
“Open your mouth,” I ordered as I peered down his perfectly normal throat.
“Oh no,” I said, very softly. “It looks like you have some cardamom pods on your uvula and some marjoram turmeric on your tongueincheek bone. This is serious. It could be that fatal liver disease that going around right now.”
He looked scared and I had the smallest twinge of guilt. Not enough to stop, however.
Don’t worry, I told him, promising to get an appointment with the doctor in a week or so if he still had the cardamom pods or if they erupted into hot, seeping coriander pimples — a serious side effect — “but in the meantime, get out there and get on the bus.”
To this day he reminds me of how I heartlessly put him on the bus and made him go to school when he could barely walk and had a fever of 119 degrees and a fatal liver disease.
By the time the younger two came along, I was broke in and well-seasoned. They all knew the rule: “Unless the bone is protruding from the skin and there’s blood, take an aspirin and get on that school bus.”
As the to whether or not I was a better mother when I was older — I was the same mother, just more worn.
I was three weeks shy of my 19th birthday when I had my daughter, and four years later, a son. I was so young and naive and had no idea how fast life was going to race by, no idea how quickly my babies would become adults, no idea how, in just a few short years, I would become a first generation.
All in all, I really have no words of wisdom or sage advice. I raised my kids by trial and error, no matter my age.
Just keep moving forward and keep your chin up when your kids are young, because all too soon you’ll have plenty of time to look back.
— The author has raised kids through the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, W. Bush and Obama administrations. She is parentically and politically exhausted.