Remember when menopause was only vaguely referred to as The Change? I remember hearing about The Change and knowing only that it meant the end of one’s childbearing years. I think I believed for a long time you just woke up and all the periods were over and that’s what menopause was.

I don’t remember ever learning that menopause (or perimenopause if you want to use the correct term that I know I’d never even heard of until my forties) was such a lengthy time of transition. I didn’t realize The Change wasn’t one change, but rather a staggering number of things happening all at once.

Such as:

My relationship with my body. Sometimes it’s every bit as toxic as it has been throughout my entire adult life and then some, with the added fuel of bemoaning all the new aging-related aches and sags n’ flabs. But sometimes it feels like I’m on the verge of transcending hardwired beauty standards and I get these glimpses of a more gratitude-based way of appreciating my body for its capabilities past and present and not its appearance? But then sometimes I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I’m like WHO EVEN IS THAT HALF-MELTED POTATO KAREN??? It is a rich and ever-shifting tapestry!

My identity as a parent. Oh, so you’re telling me that after re-arranging my soul/brain to accommodate the constant hands-on necessities of parenthood my kids will suddenly become independent beings who only require access to my credit card and not my entire life’s ambitions, and if I hadn’t been simultaneously in-roading new hobbies and friends and interests all along I might find myself staring down the empty-nest barrel with a real sense of, like, trepidation?

My career drive. You know the saying about how early in your career you just want to be IN the meeting, and then mid-career you want to LEAD the meeting, but eventually you don’t want to be invited to the meeting at all? I don’t give work the energy I used to, when it comes to caring about office politics or fretting over managerial differences. I hold boundaries on my time. I’m not trying to reach for that brass ring. At this point, I recognize my own value, I’m uninterested in any section of the corporate ladder above my relatively comfortable perch; I’m just happy to do good/interesting work when I can.

My lady garden and its once-oceanic habitat, now best described as a desert/arid environment. Clamate change! (…forgive me I physically could not stop myself from typing that.)

My ability to see men. It’s disappearing! ON GOD, I swear I do not notice men as often as I used to. You know who I find myself appreciating more and more, though? Women. Particularly older women. Sometimes I feel like we tend to give each other a little nod of recognition when we’re out and about, maybe at Safeway or whatever. It’s like being a Jeep driver: you know, the little wave? I see you, girl.


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Riley’s birthday is right around the corner: his eighteenth birthday. Eighteen! Once upon a time there was a small suspicious-eyed baby and now there is a tall handsome easy-to-smile young man. It all went by so fast, just like they said.

Well, it did and it didn’t. You know how it is, how a long time ago and just yesterday often feel like the same damn thing, especially when you’re considering your own child. A mother’s eye always sees the younger versions within, don’t you think? Like nesting dolls, progressively tinier with a pink-and-teal blanket-burrito baby at the Tootsie-Pop center. (Or maybe this is just how I try to look at it, to bear the sadness of never seeing or holding those little Rileys again.)

I can remember the feeling of sitting in his nursery before he was born. The mobile on, with its wistful tinkling music and aquatic-themed lights over the waiting crib, me in the glider. Rocking gently back and forth in that little yellow room and wondering, wondering, wondering.

I suppose we tried to imagine what life would be like when our child was 18. It was such a far-off destination! As he toddled around, we would say, ‘He’ll be going off to college someday,’ but we said it with the same slightly disbelieving tone one might use to say, ‘Humans will be on Mars someday!'”

Now the practical has caught up with the theoretical, or maybe it’s the other way around, and it seems to me that eighteen isn’t anything I could have expected. All those years of loving basketball, but here he is a bona-fide track star now, excelling in the javelin and the triple jump. A lengthy preteen stage of denying most personal responsibility, transformed into a young man who gracefully accepts fault (well, most of the time) and holds himself to strict standards when it comes to his academics and training. Mr. Absolutely NO Onions, Are You Even Fucking Kidding Me with That Disgusting Bullshit now loves onions on nearly everything.

Our tiny backpack baby, now six feet tall and strong inside and out. Working out, working his first job this summer, working on his future plans. Wings unfurling before my eyes. In a way I wish I could go back in time and give myself the tiniest glimpse — look at him now, mama! — but mostly I see that this is all how it’s supposed to be. The way it feels like he has one foot out the door even as he hugs us goodnight: it was all about getting to here.

I love this giant eighteen-year-old Riley so very much. He makes me laugh all the time, he’s genuinely kind-hearted, he inherited every bit of my snark and then some. Like every age before, I wish I could sugar and preserve this time — but it will fly by. Soon it will be so far in the rearview I’ll be having a hard time trying to remember it.

What can we do as parents but catch hold of the moments when we can, and try like hell to hang on. Here’s to Riley, to parenthood, to the overwhelming holy shit wow! of eighteen, and to the (hopefully, hopefully) many more shared chapters yet to be written.

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