Periodic Denial Can Be a Good Thing

Inserted between my daughter and her two daughters.

Inserted between my daughter and her two daughters.

It is with delight that I watch my kids move into the best times of their lives, and with consternation that I watch the winding down of mine.

My oldest daughter, who is within spitting distance of 30, had a birthday party for her two-year old this weekend. My husband and I happily attended. She’s lived an un-navigable distance from me for the last decade, so it is with distinct pleasure that I can actually go to things like this since she has recently moved closer to us.

The minute I stepped across her threshold it felt as familiar and comforting as a well-worn pair of slippers.

Arrangement of furniture, check. Framed art scattered liberally on every surface and wall, check. A number of well-used, Dali-esque, scented candles throughout, check. Pictures of smiling family members everywhere, check. Eight-year-old daughter playing with gerbil family, che…oh wait, no, I wasn’t a gerbil person. Scratch that. I had cats. Two-year-old in adorable dress with matching floral headband wandering around happily, check.

Her house, less the gerbils plus a couple of extra kids could have been mine two decades ago.

cat prayingThe realization was jarring. I felt I was in a time warp, watching a younger, hipper, fresher version of myself. With no small degree of angst, I watched as her good friend arrived for the party, five-year old in tow, baby bump under her sweater. The two young women sat on the couch, their conversation shrieking “baby, child-rearing, pre-schools!” It felt strange to cock my head, listening, an outsider to the conversation instead of an active participant. Clueless about the latest toys and technology that accompany child-rearing these days, I kept my mouth shut. I did not want to say something that would make me seem (shudder) out-of-date. Obsolete.

Am I past the sell date? Um, expired?? OMG!

Am I past the sell date? Um, expired?? OMG!

Sigh.

Sometimes I feel like the “sell by” date on my life has passed. Perhaps these feelings are common to most women finding themselves post-menopause and pre-grave. In politically correct terms, I believe this phase is typified as “re-invention.”

Whatever it is, I don’t know what to do with it.

However, in the writing of this article, a possible solution has occurred to me. It involves the lovely group of women I belong to that engages in emotional gut-spilling on a weekly basis. This is very therapeutic actually, and we talk quite a bit about a mental roadblock called “denial.”

Denial typically blindly negates whatever is going on. In order to alleviate the negative effects of denial, one must become aware of actions that precipitate an ongoing cycle within which one may be trapped. Optimistically, at that point one’s eyes will be opened, and one will walk into a brighter, clearer, more unhindered life.

After a bit of  introspection, I’ve come to the conclusion that in certain instances denial can be downright liberating. When one is in the winding down, or “re-invention” phase, for example.

In my case, I plan to pull it out regularly over the next ten or twenty years, and apply as needed. Especially if someone refers to me as a “senior” or declares I should “re-invent.”

Especially then.

Swan Song Ruffles Feathers

My sweet daughter in the "bachelorette party saddle" at a restaurant

What has a plunging neckline, shoulder-dangling earrings, skin-tight jeans, French-manicured fingers and toes; a cocktail in one hand and a karaoke songbook in the other?

Answer: my oldest daughter at her bachelorette party the night before her wedding.

I was honored to be included among my daughter’s best friends as she enjoyed her final swan song as a single. I am completely out of touch with the twenty-something bar scene, and for that I am grateful. It seems to include a little too much flesh on display, which is alternately covered with tattoos or jewelry.

No bachelorette party these days is complete without karaoke, I was informed. My daughter is an amazing vocalist, and as I watched her perform I was very proud. I screamed my guts out and applauded wildly along with the rest of the gang.

I had mixed feelings as I watched her kick back a celebratory shot of something brown with whipped cream — I am out of touch with what young people kick back these days. My daughter doesn’t drink much — a little wine — but that night, people were buying her drinks all around and I watched an interesting assortment of pink, fruity, fluffy stuff pass her lips. We all yelled and toasted each other repeatedly.

It was interesting for me to watch her against this backdrop, my mom-mode switch in neutral. This was a young and confident adult, celebrating her upcoming wedding with other young and confident adults. I did my best to ignore the cigarette smoke, thumping music, tattoos, body piercings and ridiculously short skirts that populated the bar.

In my ‘disco queen’ days, we smoked cigarettes, listened to thumping music, wore ridiculously short skirts and pierced our ears. I sense some similarities here.

Fortunately, I have outgrown this stage. Now I listen to calmer music and wear a lot of plaid capris. I don’t smoke or tattoo anything. My skirts are a sensible length.

It feels strange to be on the outside looking in – a student of my daughter’s generation. I observe her healthy, robust interaction with her friends, all of whom seem to respect and delight in her. I resist my desire to rush over to her décolletage and jerk up her neckline to a more modest level. We are on her turf, not mine. There are lines that mothers should not cross.

She introduces me proudly to everyone, and I push aside the nagging feeling that I do not belong, because in truth, I do belong.

I was invited. She is my daughter, and I am celebrating this milestone with her. So what if everyone is a good 30 years younger than me? I look okay when the lights are down low.

My two daughters during the party after throwing strange-looking beverages down their throats...

My other daughter, barely 21, arrives at the party after her work shift ends. She slices her eyes toward me as she takes deep drags from her cigarette and hoists a brew.

She grins, daring me to comment. I am outnumbered. I feel the torch being ripped from my stiff, unyielding fingers, and I don’t know if I like it.

This whole mother-of-the-bride thing is confusing. On one hand, I am delighted. On the other, I am depressed. I have no control whatsoever in this situation. I peer through the smoke-induced haze, wondering how they can breathe, let alone enjoy a conversation. When the group moved to the next agenda item, I begged a ride home and left early.

I was not overly interested in watching my daughter ride a bull.

The wedding was on the beach the following day at sunset; lovely and romantic. I’m transitioning from mother-of-the-bride to eventual mother-of-the-next-bride, where I plan to be better prepared emotionally to deal with flashbacks of adorable little girls, first dates, volleyball games, prom dresses and graduations superimposed over chortling, wild-eyed, microphone-wielding karaoke and bull-riding enthusiasts with French manicures.

Isn’t there a rule somewhere that mothers should gracefully decline an invitation to their daughters’ bachelorette parties?

 

This article first published in the Capital Journal, Pierre, SD, November, 2009