This is My 38

Someone posted this thing about being 38 on Facebook, so I read it, on my phone of course, because that’s what I spend a lot of time doing these days. I am 38 and have a 2.5 year old, and my 38 is not remotely like this woman’s. I’m not married and I’ve never been married. Maybe that’s it. My kid is younger than her kids. Maybe that’s it. But whatever it is, I read that and thought, nope, nope, that’s not 38 at all. So here’s mine.

I thought maybe 37 would be the year I stopped getting zits, but I was wrong about that, and 38 has proved no better in that regard. But I am not giving up on miniskirts at 38 or any other age. I never have worn bikinis, though–too impractical for swimming, which is what I do when I’m in water. Even if I had positive thoughts about my belly, my skin is far too fishbelly white to expose that much of it to the sun’s cancerous rays.

38 is realizing that I just don’t care anymore what you think. I feel invincible. I feel like Teflon, or better yet, cast iron. Really well-seasoned cast iron. And so 38 isn’t just for doing what I like; it’s for trying new things. It’s for adventures, whatever small adventures I can have while my kid is still small.

38 is learning new things. I now know, for instance, that excavators have different types of attachments (thank you, small child who loves construction equipment and well-stocked children’s section at the library) and what the names of those attachments are. 38 is also the year I finally learned how to run a cash register, which I somehow avoided truly doing or understanding until now. And it is also appreciating old things anew. Every book I remember or reread now that has a mother in it, I read with fresh eyes, and I suspect I always will. Motherhood changes you, as many things do, but perhaps more irrevocably than most. I think a lot about my mother and her mother, and all the mothers before them and wish I could talk to them about what 2.5 year olds are like.

38 is the age my mom was when she thought she was 36. I was eight or nine and I told her she was wrong, wrong, wrong, and we counted up, and I was right. 38 is the age I am now, though I sometimes forget that.

38 is seeing all these movies I’d like to watch and knowing that I’ll never get to watch them with my grandmother. It’s being so glad she lived long enough to meet my son but heartbroken that they only got nine months of each other’s company.

38 is looking around at my house and the fifteen trees on my property and knowing that I chose a good place, one I hope we won’t leave for a long, long time. I’ve never lived in a house for more than four years in my life. 40 is the year that will change. At 38, I’m looking forward to that. 38 is feeling steady, feeling unshakeable, feeling secure.

38 is caring more for my son than I thought it was possible to care for another human being, ever, and simultaneously knowing that for him to succeed, I have to, too. 38 is getting ready to see what that means. Sometimes it’s staying in at night and snuggling with him on the sofa before bedtime. Sometimes it’s hiring a babysitter to do that so I can go out and listen to music and drink beer. Sometimes it’s wishing I’d done one when I’m doing the other. 38 is know that it doesn’t matter, though, because I can do it differently the next time, because screwing up isn’t the end of the world, because mistakes are there to be made. Fail. Try again. Fail better.

38 is flying.

5 comments

  1. You have 15 trees?! I am very jealous. :)

  2. When I was 38, I was a reporter for a daily newspaper in Rochester, NY. My husband and I lived on 80-some acres south of the city, in an 1802 brick Federal home. He had four children and his former wife had married a man with four children the same ages, so we frequently had eight children running around the place, especially when it was summer and they could swim in a four-acre pond. All eight were teenagers in one year, which was fine if you didn’t mind suspending sanity.

    One day they all headed out to swim and I followed to watch them–that’s what adults do, isn’t it? After a little while Tom, the oldest of the tribe, came up and sat down beside me. “Anne, what would you do if one of us got into trouble?” he asked. There was no good answer to that, considering that whenever I try to swim I sink. He grinned. “Three of us have our senior lifesaving certification,” he said. “Get in the house before you burn to death in this sun.” And then, he hugged me.

    I still hear from all eight and see the four stepchildren on Facebook. Now and again, one drops by. It’s nowhere near the same as you and Peter, but every once in a while it has had its stellar moments, and I’m grateful.

  3. Magnificent. I was in a similar place when I was 38 (though my first was 1 & 1/2) so I can relate to some of what you’ve been through. I definitely agree that a big part of the late-30s is figuring out whose opinion you should really care about, and the rest be damned.

    Here’s to 39 being like 38 but with more sleep.

  4. Oh, Laura, that’s lovely. And Anne, your response is, too.
    er, I don’t remember a lot about 38. what year was that? 1985–good grief, no wonder, I was an intern. I remember working a lot, and wishing I were more efficient at it, and thinking I knew more than I did while feeling that I wasn’t really very good at anything, and planning for you every day, and double for nights I had to be in the hospital. I survived to say, it gets better. And you get a grown up once-child and a grandson.

  5. Amen to the sleep, Neil. Amen.