To the 20-something-year-old taking a selfie in the driver’s seat of the car behind me:
I almost judged you, but then I realized I once was you.
When I looked back and saw you adjusting your arm level and camera height and playing with your car’s AC so that when the air hit your hair, you could toss it and get “the perfect shot,” I almost laughed.
I wondered who you were going send that picture to?
Your mom? Highly unlikely.
A girlfriend? Maybe, but if so, only so she could give you feedback.
To keep for yourself as a reminder of your beauty so that one day when you are thirty-two, overweight, exhausted and have three kids of your own, you can recall such? I doubt it.
To a boy or a man? Most likely.
I was embarrassed for you, but I don’t even believe you even knew I was looking at you; and, also if you did, well, I suspect you wouldn’t have cared.
I remember my twenties pretty well. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago, and if I recall correctly, I’ve taken numerous car selfies myself.
Want me to let you in on a little secret?
I still do it occasionally on the infrequent occasions when I am husband and kid-free.
But, there we were, stopped at the red light, and as I looked through my rearview past my 4-year-old son and his two-year-old sister in their car seats, I thought “what an idiot!”
Let me apologize now because that’s a bad word in my home and one that we do not use.
It’s just plain rude, judgmental, entitled, ageist(y) and a-hole(y) and sadly, here I was using it; it was my genuine immediate reaction.
Why was it so abrasive? I’m not entirely sure.
While I cannot be positive as to why I was so presumptuous, I am astute enough to dissect my behavior and attitude and to speculate on my perception of the situation as influenced by my anxiety and sensitivities.
You see, there’s something about your twenties that, at least for some, is a ten-year (give or take a bit) period of freedom.
Freedom from your parents.
Freedom from BIG responsibility.
Freedom from rule overload.
Freedom in your thinking.
Freedom with your time.
Freedom from strict schedules.
Freedom to look how you want.
Freedom to do whatever it is you desire whenever you long to do it.
And well, there’s something about your thirties, when you are married with kids, that makes you feel like all that freedom is gone.
Sure, you are free from your parents, but now YOU are a parent, and your child is not free from you making them your responsibility.
Speaking of responsibility — there isn’t a duty more significant than caring for and raising small humans; what pressure!
While you might assume that I am the rule-maker now and yes, in my home I (kind of) am, the truth is there’s a sh*t-ton of pediatrician, parenting expert, school district, and general public rules that I must ensure my kids and I abide by so that we are welcomed wherever we go. Not easy.
About the freedom in thinking that your early twenties typically allow for; your thirties, marriage and the birth of any children will ensure that you never EVER stop thinking. Trying to get your brain to turn off will become as challenging as trying to fit into the skinny jeans you wore senior year of high school. Just give up, cause it’s not going to happen.
Oh, free time. What is that again? I can’t remember because I haven’t had it in seven long years. Yes, I go on date nights, occasionally a girls’ night out, and periodically find time to squeeze in some self-care, but never ever am I truly free from the chains that bind me to four other humans (and I never want to be).
And you must think that as the mother, I make the schedule and therefore can make it as lenient as I want. Wrong. When you have three children at different schools, in various activities, with different friends, you must adhere to a firm plan if you’re going to get to #allthethings.
The freedom to look how you want. Ugh. I envy that you have that prerogative. I want to look skinny, but I stress-eat. I want to wear skinny jeans, but it’s hard to fit my cellulite-marked thighs into a pair. I want to wear tank tops without my upper-arm flab waving “hello” to you. I want to dress in a fun and eclectic way without being judged by other parents at walk-up line. Actually, you know what, I do have the freedom to look how I want, but such thinking requires that I toss my quest for perfection and acceptance — from anyone outside of my family — out the kid-smudged window of my dirty minivan.
Listen, I may have lost a lot of the types of freedoms that you currently enjoy in your twenties, but now I get to experience freedom in an atypical way.
My freedom is a type of privilege that is unrivaled and one that allows for me to grow as a person while growing next to a person while raising people, as each of us seeks to add more ‘good’ into this world.
That judgment I made of you, young lady, that wasn’t compassionate, and I apologize. My thoughts and remark, which I should never have made, came from a place of ill-placed enviousness and you have my ardent apology.
I hope that enjoy your current freedoms, but I also have another wish for you…that one day — if it’s what you want for your life — you find yourself in your minivan transporting your munchkins and being so present with and grateful for your cargo that you don’t even see the twenty-something year old in the car behind you, let alone judge her.