Childhood Unbound

 

I gave birth to Little Guy at the age of 43. I remember over- hearing one of the supervisors on the delivery floor direct a nurse to prep the “senior mom” for a C-section.

“Good morning, Mrs. Ancient One. It’s a great day to have a baby,” I imagined hearing the nurse declare when she entered my room bringing a sunshine smile and a foetal heart monitor.

Being labelled a “senior” felt distressing. I didn’t even consider my mom to be a senior though she had recently turned 65, and here I was about to be handled with latex kid gloves because I was old.

“Old-ER,” I reminded myself not for the first time in the past nine months. “Old -ER.”

During my pregnancy, some people treated my good news with a mix of pity and disbelief. “How exciting for you,” they said, but the subtext was evident by their inability to meet my gaze. You’re going to put your body, your family – your LIFE through the stress of a baby at your advanced age? Whoopie Goldberg was already a grandma at 43!

Whoopee.

I did not plan to have Little Guy on this time-line. I was shooting for late thirties, two and a half years after giving birth to Scowl (who was still known as “Chuckles” in those halcyon days of toddlerhood). But, the universe didn’t concur with my design. I endured three miscarriages, becoming more disillusioned but determined after each disappointment. I loved Scowl. I was adamant that he should have a sibling and saw no irrefutable reason to stop trying.

Towards the end of my first trimester with Little Guy, I began to display the same worrisome symptoms that had accompanied my three prior losses. But, when I rushed to the clinic and glimpsed his pearl-sized heart beating ferociously on the ultrasound screen, I felt relieved and assured that Little Guy really wanted to be here. I knew he would be a gift of unimaginable proportions for my family, but an unbidden question continued to pose: was I spry enough to raise him?

Nine years later, Little Guy is healthy, charming and smart. Maybe, older women really do birth brighter babies. My theory is that Little Guy spent decades rolling around in my ovary with nothing else to do but soak up knowledge that seeped in from the outside world. Thus, he emerged a “Professor of Life”, and the first thing he taught me was that if I was going to keep up with him, I had better get off my ass and lose fifty pounds. I accomplished this in eight months and have worked hard to stay in the best shape of my life. What choice do I have? Not only do I want to be around as long as possible for my kids, I also want to be able to catch them!

Mentally, I have had to learn flexibility, French (again), and the ability to look good in 3D glasses which I wear for just about every movie we see. Little Guy has taught me how to play and lose Chess games. I read to him every night, exposing me to the pure imagination of children’s literature. It is my recurring job to locate the pieces of Lego that he alleges are missing from packaged sets. He is amazed that I find them. I am amazed at the intense focus with which he puts them together, squatting for hours in a position that would have me screaming for a massage therapist or a winch.

Little Guy’s existence keeps me young. He inspires me to chase basketballs that roll dangerously down the middle of the street after missing the net on our driveway. He engages me in fanciful conversations about monsters and “what-ifs” and immerses me by proxy in all the activities of Grade Four life. Little Guy pushes me to be more.

There is a downside, though, to my extended childhood, which was recently exclamation- marked during a family weekend away. At what point does “child-like” become “childish”, embarrassing or potentially dangerous to one’s health?

Returning to our rooms after an evening of dinner and ping-pong, we found two elevators waiting open in the hotel lobby. Little Guy grabbed his big brother and boarded the “kids only” lift, announcing his intent to push the button for every floor. After arriving at our level in a timely fashion, I, the mature one, suggested to my husband that we hide and scare the kids when they emerged. I flattened my body against a wall around the corner while my husband watched from across the way, slightly bemused but anticipating some lively “family entertainment”. Finally, I heard my sons’ giggling and the chime-like ding of the elevator stopping and the doors pulling open. I tensed, listened for footsteps, and then flailing both arms in the air like a Zulu warrior, I leapt into the middle of the hallway and screamed something akin to, “Bbbllaaaaaaaggggggghhhh!”

The thirty year-old stranger with whom I came face to face, jumped back with terror-stricken eyes. Instantly mortified, I nearly tripped, but steadied myself on his arm. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I thought you were my son.”

“No problem,” said this polite, non- gun-toting Canadian, but I could tell by his bewildered expression that he wasn’t convinced of my sanity. He ran off just as the other elevator discharged my actual children, and I dissolved into paroxysms of unstoppable mirth.

“What’s so funny?” asked Little Guy.

“I . . . this man . . . warrior arms . . .” I sputtered, unable to form a cohesive sentence through laughter and tears.

At last, when I could explain, Little Guy didn’t understand why scaring the wrong person was so amusing. In his nine year- old world, these mishaps occur all the time. In my fifty-two year-old world, I was lucky to not have been shot or arrested.

Soon after our boys fell asleep, my husband recounted the event for the gazillionth time and burst into hysterics. I joined him for the next thirty minutes. Neither of us could remember the last time we had laughed so hard. We slept like babies.

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