The older woman
I’m only thirty five. I feel like I’m still in my twenties though truth be told I love this age and I love this decade of my life more than any of the ones prior. My twenties were awfully insecure for me. No doubt I missed out on a good many things just because I was too worried about what someone thought to “just do it” or “just say it”.
These days, increasingly, someone asks a question or seeks advice about something and it catches me off guard. My first blush response is usually (in my head at least) “I have no idea – I’m not qualified to answer that”. And then I usually say something (out loud) that hopefully sounds like “I may not be qualified but I’m at least willing to try to help”.
Last year I got off the phone with someone and told my husband in disbelief:
I’m the older woman. How can that be?!
I’m not sure how it happened, how I got to be thirty five and have six children over a ten year span and be married to the same (amazing) man for almost 15 years. Well, of course I sort of know how most of that happened. But the point is I still feel like the young, inexperienced, not-excellent-at-anything mother. And regardless of anything redeeming I’m able to share with anyone, anywhere – I really need a still-older-than-me woman to beckon me down this path.
Last month I thought to myself “How does any mother make it without a Mrs. Nelson?”. She’s a teacher at our homeschool co-op. She had my two older sons in class last year, dealt graciously with the one who can be challenging and has my two middle ones this year. Last year she spoke just a few kind words about my son that told me she gets it, she gets him and she sees good things in him despite his difficulties. I can’t explain what that meant to me. She affirmed who he was; his nature-loving, quiet, bright, book-devouring self. I remember the tears the day I realized she saw great things when all I could see in that moment was a mess. She spoke life. She invited herself over this summer and I could hardly believe she’d want to come spend an afternoon over her break from school on my front porch but she did. She engaged all of my children that day in the most delightful way. It was such a gift to me.
When Caleb hurt his hand and had surgery she was quick to offer to come help at the Fair with kids and goats and anything. It totally blessed me. She came and she helped in the most practical ways. She gently, firmly corrected my five year old who grabbed kettle corn out of her bag without asking. She somehow did that with such grace that I didn’t feel judged for my daughter being a little bit rude, only thankful for the kind correction. Mrs. Nelson continues to give me little pep talks and words of encouragement along the way and truly, some days, they hold me up in ways nothing else quite could. And it makes me wonder, over and again, how people survive the arduous, un-glamorous, largely-without-thanks but most incredible privilege of motherhood if they don’t have a few good cheerleaders who are further down the road than they are.
In the same regard, we have Suzanne. She texts me spur of the moment and says “can I bring you coffee?”. She has a long lunch some days of the week. Why anyone would stop by our crazy house on their lunch hour I have no idea. And we don’t exactly live in the city or on anyone’s way anywhere. So for someone to pop by with coffee is most unusual. And most wonderful. Her stay is always short and she makes sure to “check in” with each of my children. Her genuine interest in their goings on is totally precious. She is one of those people you meet and think “too good to be true, too sweet to be real?”. But she’s the real thing. She wrote me these words a while back that I come back to over and again (her email is tucked in my ‘special’ folder):
Full of tender mercy & love, fiercely devoted to your family- that is how I see you.
Heaven knows as mothers we sure don’t see ourselves in a lovely light every day, most days probably. I’d been discouraged and sad and unable to see past my failure of the moment when she wrote me that note. It literally infused hope just when I needed it. We often need someone else to tell us how they see us because what we see isn’t always an accurate picture.
The most lovely thing is as they cheer me on, I am inspired to do the same with the mama’s who are coming along after me. It’s beautiful. I’m fairly sure it’s the way life is supposed to work and part of how we were mysteriously, intricately, lovingly created by a gracious God to abide in community with others.