Musing elsewhere: When a teen mom hits midlife

In the summer of 1982, I graduated from high school, got married, turned 18, and had a baby. I went from kid to wife and mother in the span of three months, just like that.

teen mom and baby

My husband was 21 at the time. Now, 33 years later, we're empty-nesters. We've patted ourselves on the back for a job well done. We beat the odds and raised three lovely and amazing daughters from diapers to dorm rooms and into the real world. Our journey featured little outside the typical bumps, bruises and pains of parenthood, despite the fact that we were mere children ourselves at the outset. Our girls are grown and gone—one has even made us grandparents.

Time to rejoice! Time to enjoy midlife!

Time for an unexpected reality check, is more like it.

Once my kids split and I recovered from the initial empty-nest jitters, it became clear that having been a teen mother would...Click here to continue reading my article published on

purple clover

Looking back: 9 things we did right as parents

carpenter family portrait

I didn't support my youngest when she wanted to change majors — and universities — midway through her college career.

I didn't call parents to tattle on their mean girls (and boys) who made a living hell of several academic years for my middle daughter.

I didn't demand my oldest...

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The Saturday Post: 'Magical Journey' edition

Our kids may have moved out and on, yet there's still plenty for us to do and be and grow into. Katrina Kenison's words, excerpted from Magical Journey, beautifully and gracefully underscores that as she moves into a phase of life many of us already know, may still be coming to terms with.


I posted a similar yet quite different video from Katrina Kenison in the past, a recitation from her book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day. If you  missed it, check it out here.

Today's question:

Which was/is more challenging for you: young kids at home or older kids who've moved out?

Grandma's snafu and some Fun.

Yesterday I posted the One-Word Wednesday post, with the one word being neighbors. It should have been snafu, for that's what my Wednesday turned out to be: one big snafu.

I typically write my blog posts the day before they're posted. But after spending the majority of Wednesday sitting at the hospital, not having taken a shower nor eaten except for two slurps of oatmeal as I headed out the door in a rush, creative and like writing are words the very furthest from what might describe how I felt after inhaling the last piece of pumpkin pie and finally jumping in the shower at 5 p.m. That's P.M.

Bottom line: I didn't feel like writing this post.

What I felt like, no, what I needed, was a little fun. Fun to counteract the day-long snafu.

Fortunately it's fairly easy to find such things online, and I quickly found the following Fun.—with a capital F and a period at the end:

That's not the Fun. I originally set out to share (I do so enjoy the band), but once I stumbled across that song, the message to carry on fit more perfectly than the other Fun. I had in mind.

A final note: Do know that I'm fine, my family is fine, everyone is fine. Wednesday was just a sucky, snafu of a day.

Also know—especially those who may think once the kids leave home it's all fun of the lower-case sort for parents in an empty nest—you will always be a parent, always be the one called when they're scared, always be the one to help when asked or needed, even when it makes for one heck of a non-fun, non-productive snafu of a day.

Carry on...!

Today's question:

What kind of fun do you prefer after a snafu of a day?

I would do anything for love (but I won't do that)

Remember the old Meatloaf song, the over-the-top and emotionally draining "I Would Do Anything For Love (but I won't do that)." If not, feel free to take a moment and refresh your memory here.

That song has run through my head several times in the past few weeks, in response to recent news reports. For when it comes to my family and friends—my daughters in particular, in this instance—I sincerely would do anything for love. Whatever that anything may be, whether time, money, attention, affection, I will do and give to the full extent I'm able.

But, as that earworm of a song says, I won't do that. That being what some incredible and amazing mothers—grandmothers, really—have recently made the news for doing.

SO BLESSED MY GRANDSONS CAME NATURALLY.You may recall the many stories online and off about the kind and courageous—and physically fit, I must add—grandmother who served as a surrogate for her infertile daughter. The daughter was repeatedly unsuccessful in carrying a child to term, so the sixty-one-year-old mother, who had gone through menopause ten years prior, agreed to hormone supplementation and in vitro fertilization of her daughter's egg and her son-in-law's sperm. She successfully carried to term and in August, delivered via Cesarean section her daughter's biological daughter. Her own grandchild.

What an amazing gift to give a beloved daughter. And this most recent woman is not alone, as such surrogacies have taken place countless times in the past.

I truly, madly, deeply love my three daughters. But I don't think I'm selfless enough to commit to being a surrogate for any of them.

Serving as a surrogate isn't the most recent act of selflessness on the part of a mother, a grandmother-to-be, that has made the news. Yesterday's newspaper (yes, I read the actual print paper) featured a story about two Swedish women who underwent the world's first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants, in hopes they will be successful in getting pregnant and giving birth. That's two daughters with two mothers who gave up their uteruses (uteri?) for the love of their child. One daughter had her uterus removed because of cancer, the other was born without a uterus. Now, thanks to their moms, they each have one. Now the quest to bear children is on.

I honestly cannot imagine the point of desperation one must reach in order to consider, much less do such a thing. Such a heartbreaking state it must be. Regardless, if any one of my daughters came to me entertaining such a thought, suggesting such a plan, I couldn't do it. I really am not that strong, not that selfless.

And I really am not so committed to becoming a grandma that I'd birth my own grandchildren.

Although, I already am a grandma, so I can't say for sure.

I'm not judging any of the grandmothers who sacrifice in such a way, I promise. I truly think they are incredibly loving, giving women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty of a mother, of a grandmother. I'm just trying to understand the degree of cojones it takes. And why I don't have them, what I'm lacking that makes me, as a mother, unwilling to do such a thing for my own daughters, if need be.

In all honesty, because of various health issues, I'm pretty darn sure I would not be physically able to be a surrogate or offer up my uterus to be transplanted into my daughter. My oldest happened to be visiting as I wrote this, and I asked her if she'd ever consider requesting I be her surrogate or uterus donor. Her immediate response was "no," because of what the health repercussions may be to me, her mother.

I admit to being a wee bit thankful for those health issues that make me a poor candidate. They save me from having to find out for sure how deep is my love, for my girls, for my future grandchildren. At least when it comes to doing that. Because—more honesty here—I can't be one-hundred-percent certain that I wouldn't do such a thing, if it would make all the difference in a daughter's world if I did.

I pray my girls never reach the point of such desperation for children that surrogacy and transplants requiring my participation are a consideration. For any of us.

When it comes to my daughters, I really, truly, honestly would do anything for love.

But I won't do that.

I don't think.

And I hope I never have to find out for sure.

(Photography by Alison Baum. Full stories on the women mentioned can be found here and here.)

Today's question:

How about you? Would you do that?

Calendar girl

Yesterday I copied all the birthdays and anniversaries from my 2010 calendar onto my 2011 calendar then added the old calendar to my stack of those I've saved for years -- every year since 1997, to be exact.

I abhor packrats and do my best not to be one, so holding onto reminders of dentist appointments and "No School" dates of years past may seem in opposition to my cause. But the old calendars are so much more than appointment reminders: They are time in a bottle. Snapshots of the hustle and bustle of a once busy household. A record of the good, the bad, the scary, the sweet -- an organic record that didn't require me to journal or scrapbook or keep a diary or update a blog to maintain it.

Most of the markings on the grids of daily happenings are in my handwriting. Others are in the handwriting of one or another of the girls, applied in painstakingly perfect penmanship befitting an occasion important enough to be included on the family calendar for all to consider in their schedule.

Each notation holds much more than just a record of where we had to be and what time we had to be there, though. They hold stories, stories that bring mostly grins (birthday parties and school sporting events) and groans (dentist appointments and work schedules). Others cause my eyes to well up, my heart to grow a little cold, and a lump to form in my throat. Those are the notations of occasions that serve as poignant reminders of our challenges, the growing pains that strengthened our family fabric and made it the resilient, tight-knit one it is today.

As I skim the calendars before placing them back on the shelf for another year, here are some of the scribbles that touch my heart:

April 28, 1997: "Closing" - This is the date we officially bought the house we rented for 10 years before finally getting up the nerve -- and the income -- to ask our landlords if we could buy it. It's the house that became the childhood home of our three girls, the place we raised them all, from kindergarten through college.

July 21-25, 1997: "Brianna in Texas" - Brianna went to Work Camp; we remodeled our new house to add a fourth bedroom while she was gone. Andrea and Megan rejoiced at no longer having to share a room, no longer having to divide the space with duct tape down the center. Jim and I rejoiced that the bickering would end.

May 25, 1998: "Andie leaves" - Andrea spent a week at Sea Camp in San Diego and to this day still dreams of working with dolphins. Somewhere. Somehow. Which is a tad challenging considering she lives in the Rocky Mountains.

March 22, 1999: "5:30 a.m. Brianna skiing" - Clinches the heart a bit as Brianna will likely never ski again after the damage done to her back when her (stopped) car was rear-ended at a stoplight by a landscaping truck.

April 24-25, 1999: "Retaining wall" - One of the many "huh?" markings on the calendars, important at the time but now completely forgotten.

October 15, 1999: "UNC College Day" - Our first visit to check out a college for our first-born.

July 18, 2000: "Test w/HR 2:30" - The beginning of my newspaper career.

July 28-29, 2000: "American Co-ed Pageant" - Megan needed college funds and left no stone unturned. She won no pageant money but we both received an unexpected -- and unpleasant -- introduction to pageantry and "pageant moms." Believe me when I say Little Miss Sunshine resonates.

October 25-27, 2001: "Seward" - Our first visit with Megan to what would become her college town. And eventually Andrea's college town.

June 22-27, 2002: "Disney World" - Our last vacation as a family. <sniff>

June 29, 2002: "Marked words: Brianna will NOT be with Eric at this time next year!" - Too funny now. What's not funny is that marking one's words doesn't make things magically come true ... or eliminate the need to keep marking them.

May 25, 2003: "Andie's Graduation Party" - My baby, my last daughter, graduated and soon off to college.

June 27, 2003: "I'm old" - Any guess as to whose birthday this was?

July 22, 2006: "Meg's wedding!"

June 18, 2008: "BUBBY!" - Okay, it doesn't really say "Bubby," it says his real name. An all-caps pronouncement of joy just the same.

December 5, 2008: "D-Day!" - This was the day my layoff was scheduled ... and occurred. The end of my stint as a special sections editor. The end of my newspaper career.

Sprinkled throughout the calendar pages, amidst notes about the girls going on mission trips, attending prom, graduating from high school and college, are red-letter dates of concerts and performances that Jim and I were to attend: Pearl Jam, Live, Tommy, Black Crowes, Rent, Counting Crows and more. Memorable occasions all. But my pile of ticket stubs serves as a better reminder of those particular dates. And, yes, serves as another large stack of paper this non-packrat refuses to get rid of.

On second thought, maybe I am a packrat after all. A sentimental packrat with lots of memories worth holding on to.

Today's question:

What do you do with your old calendars?

Ode to (birthday) joy

Twenty-seven years ago today, Frosty the Snowman played on the labor-room television while Jim and I waited for our second daughter to be born. By the time the evening news hit the screen, Megan had arrived and my life was forever enhanced, my heart forever expanded.

Because of Megan, I've learned ...

That "Silent Night" is a perfectly appropriate and effective lullabye.

That it is possible for me to laugh so hard my ribs, abs and obliques hurt ... for days.

To never give up hope.

And to take a picture with my heart.

That despite being scared as cuss while doing it, I can be the fiercest Mama Bear out there and challenge the so-called professionals in the name of doing what I know is right for my child.

That the words of a teen daughter are just that -- words -- and eventually they'll be apologized for or forgotten. And forgiven.

And that the stereotype of beautiful, blonde, cheerleader homecoming queens being mean-spirited bimbos is just that -- an inaccurate stereotype.

That courage looks like a young lady with braids in her hair, hands in her pockets and tears welling in her eyes as she walks to her first college campus meeting while Mom and Dad pull out of the parking lot, heading for home seven hours away.

That I can wholeheartedly love and adore someone whose political leanings -- and movie preferences -- are so different from mine.

That faith is a badge to wear loud and proud.

That bestowing the title of "Grandma" upon someone is one of the greatest honors one can give. And receive.

That there's something mesmerizing and magical in watching a child become an adult quite different -- and exceedingly better -- than the person I thought she might be.

And, most importantly, that it is indeed possible to survive with huge chunks of my heart living 819 miles away. Infinitely more lonely, but possible.

Happy 27th birthday to my goofy middle girl who will always be, no matter the number of years, my little Meggie Beggie Booger Buns!

Holiday question of the day:

What's the most magical thing to ever happen to you in December?


Related Posts with ThumbnailsI have a friend who recently found out she's pregnant. Pam, whom many of you may know in real life -- or from her comments and reviews here on Grandma's Briefs -- received the good news a few weeks ago.

It was surprising news for Pam as she'd pretty much settled into life with the assumption she'd never have kids. It had taken her a long time to find a partner she'd deemed worthy of parenting with her, they'd gotten pregnant, they sadly lost the baby. They were told by specialists -- in their infinite wisdom -- that they'd likely never have children.

So Pam moved on to other pursuits, including studying to become a personal trainer (and being within just the exam of certification) and preparing the home she and her significant other share for putting it on the market so they could move to a place more fitting their lifestyle.

Now their lifestyle has been thrown into surprise makeover mode.

Though it means (and meant) incredible ups, downs, heartbreak and hope for Pam and her SO, such stories are fairly common.

What isn't so common, though, and what I -- along with my friend, the mommy-to-be -- find most intriguing about her story is that, get this, Pam will become a full-fledged mother at the very same age that I became a GRANDmother!

Yes, Pam, who is only a few years younger than I, will be struggling with diapers, doctors and disparate parenting philosophies at the very same time that I'm struggling to get quality time with my Bubby and hoping for the arrival of additional grandbabies sometime soon.

I'm not sure if that says more about me, more about Pam, or more about the current generation of parents ... and grandparents ... in general.

I became a grandmother at a relatively young age, but I'm far from the record of Youngest Grandma Ever. My oldest sister was nearly five years younger when she became a grandma, and I've featured a Grilled Grandma who had her first grandbaby at an age much younger than the one at which I first claimed the crown.

Does that mean strangers might mistake me for Bubby's mother when we're out and about together? Possibly. But I sure hope not. Megan deserves all the credit -- and the craziness -- that's part and parcel of being the one whom Bubby calls Mom. I'm proud to proclaim myself Bubby's grandmother, not his mother.

And with Pam firmly in the "older" mother category -- yet decades from Oldest Ever designation -- does that mean she might be considered little Nubbin's grandmother when she and the sweet one are out and about once Nubbin arrives? Possibly, but highly unlikely. Pam is in the best shape ever (did I mention she's nearly a personal trainer?) and looks, dresses and acts far younger than most women her age -- myself indubitably included. And the youthfulness looks fabulous on her. She'll most definitely proudly proclaim her status as Nubbin's mother, not grandmother.

What I think the situation really underscores is that the women of my generation are doing things far younger than in the past (including becoming grandma) as well as far older than in the past (including becoming mama). And every once in a while there's an intersection of the two.

I'm honored to have met Pam at that intersection.

In the several years I've know Pam, we've been similar in so many ways, each with minor deviances from what we share. We like basically the same movies -- with the exception of her penchant for zombie flicks while I prefer documentaries. We read many of the same books -- with the exception of her well-read list of classics compared to my enjoyment of non-fiction fare. We've worked together, been in book clubs together, gotten drunk together, worried about health scares and aging together, written together.

Now we'll blog together. Pam recently embarked on a mommy blogging venture, calling it 40-Something First Timer. I can't think of a more worthy blogging buddy.

Nor can I think of a more worthy buddy with whom to share the 40-something parenting experience, albeit from opposite ends of the spectrum -- Pam as new mother, me as (fairly new) grandmother.

As many of my readers can attest, Pam is in for the ride of her life -- with both the blog and, more importantly, the baby. I wish her the very best of luck with the challenges of both!

Photo courtesy stock.xchng.

Today's question:

Stereotype, schmereotype! What about you goes against the stereotype of someone your age?