Mama Madison: Growing up as a mom

What young mothers have to learn from, well, women who've been at it for a while

We met more neighbors the first two hours living in our new Madison home than we had the whole time we lived in Chicago. Everyone came by to check out the moving van, say hello, and offer advice on parks, pre-schools and nearby restaurants. I especially remember my first encounter with the delightful woman from across the street. She was friendly and funny and came bearing brownies--totally my style. But I doubted we'd ever really strike up a much of a friendship. She was, how can I say it delicately, older.

Not older like Senior Center older, but more a "senior" mom with a high school daughter, and fifth and second grade sons. Her kids rode bikes, spoke in full sentences, and were toilet trained. I had just one child at the time, an 11-month-old, and couldn't see much beyond Good Night Gorilla and the Diaper Genie . Her life just seemed so foreign: a world away across the street.

I write this post almost 13 years later, on the eve of my 45th birthday. In some ways I certainly am worse for the wear. Fine lines and wrinkles really aren't that fine; all I want for my birthday is some obscenely high-priced face cream that likely won't deliver on its promise. And I am pretty sure I can no longer pass off my ever-increasing grey hairs as very "blonde" highlights.

But my advancing age has bought me one, somewhat unexpected, surprise. I love being an older mom"or at least the mom of older kids. The 11-month-old is now 14; my husband and I don't need babysitters anymore. We are free to be spontaneous"ducking out for a quick bite or a last minute movie just because we feel like it.

And this year I took that same 14 year old and a couple of his buddies out to Graze to celebrate his birthday. We talked about philosophy and politics. I don't recall that ever happening at Chuck E Cheese.

All three of my kids shower on their own, use the microwave and sleep soundly through the night. In some ways I feel younger"or at least better rested and better dressed. I still wear stained clothes, but at least the stains aren't spit-up anymore.

Parenting was so physical when they were little. It was a good day if no one bled, had a major meltdown in the grocery store or bit a pre-school classmate. It was a great day if any one took a nap, especially me. I can best summarize those as the hands-on years. Now I am working on the art of "hands-off" parenting"letting them make decisions, mistakes and dinner. It's a mental game.

Yes, I still have times when I catch a whiff of Johnson's Baby Powder passing by and I well up unexpectedly. It makes me just a bit melancholy to realize I will never again go to a kindergarten orientation. And all three of my children are now too heavy for me to carry up to bed. But I wouldn't go back for the world.

My next-door neighbors just put their house on the market. This past Sunday a young couple pulled up to the open house to take a look. I couldn't help but notice their infant son, fussing and bored, strapped in the back seat. I rushed up to greet (maybe scare) them, offering advice on parks, pre-schools and nearby restaurants. I probably should have mentioned that the best is yet to come.

And that older mom across the street, now an empty nester? We are great friends. Maybe I (they) just needed to grow up a little.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.

Mama Madison: Watching talent grow

Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.

Mama Madison: Writing time at Olbrich

If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.

Mama Madison: When UW-Madison's semester is over, the kids want out too

There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.


Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!