I’ve heard it called a mid life crisis. I pictured a 50 year old man with a bit of a gut, a receding hairline he’s trying to save, and a sports car he shouldn’t have bought. I pictured him flirting with younger women and making a fool of himself. I pictured a cheesy shirt and some jewelry he shouldn’t be wearing and a dirty martini. Its what I pictured. What crept up and slapped me square in the face was what it really is. Not so much a crisis as a stage of life. A transition. A skin shedding. A wing spreading. A death and a rebirth….and most shocking of all….not a HIM at all.
Admitting Im in a “transitional phase” (as the experts like to call it) is humbling, embarrassing, cathartic, cleansing, funny, and disappointing all at once. Im only 44 years old. Ill be 45 in a few months but I don’t think theres an actuall time stamp on when this shit happens to you. You can be 38. You can be 58. Its not exactly about an age but more about whats going on in your life. And whats going on in my life? Ha. Great question. Wish I had an answer for that. Since the age of I don’t even recall Ive pretty much had my shit together. I knew I wanted to be married, have a family, have a home, plant roots and be a Mom. In 24 months my oldest leaves for college. My youngest will be doing online school so it matters not where he lives. So it goes without saying I’ve given some thought to what this means.
For the first time in forever the NEXT place I go, live, stay, adventure….it wont matter how good the school district is or what the property values are or how far of a commute it is to work or school or grocery stores. It wont matter that a great preschool is nearby. It wont matter if its within 30 minutes of soccer fields or tumbling gyms or indoor bounce houses or any of that. ANY of that. It was so very difficult for me to become a Mom. I had MANY miscarriages. The one in the 5th month was the worst. And the most painful. I thought Id never get to be a Mom. So when I became one I was ecstatic and grateful and thought I’d found the identity I’d needed. Wanted. A name to call me- MOM. I have loved every damn second. The tantrums, diapers, potty training, first day of Kindergarten, sleepless nights, swim lessons, soccer games, all of it. All. Of. It. How crazy privileged I’ve been to get to do this parent thing. Some don’t get to.
There’s been a grieving in me for things that wont ever be. I wont ever live near my parents and they wont make every game my kid cheers at and there wont be weekly Sunday dinners with cousins and large family gatherings and accepting that has been hard. And sad. And cathartic. And DECIDING that I get to decide what life looks like now, whats normal, whats ok….took time.
I think we all go through this whole “transitional phase”. Maybe some just slide by it almost unnoticed. Maybe some don’t even blink at it. Maybe some are so happy to be getting on to the next phase of life that its a happy time. Maybe some are sad. Maybe some feel they are losing some purpose and identity as their kids leave. And maybe a few are like me- kind of flailing. Flapping their wings and trying to fly away while keeping one foot in the nest with the kids. Trying to figure out if this is what being “grown up” means. Trying to find what and who you are at this next phase.
Its a strange thing getting older. I feel more confident, sexy, smart, sure footed and calm than I ever did when I was actually younger and prettier and had less wrinkles and was rocking a pair of shorts. Maybe God gives you the nicer body and face when you’re younger to make up for the idiocy that engulfs your brain. I would NOT trade the things I know for the younger body. Not in a million years.
The type A in me wants to know what happens next. Where will I be? Where will I live? Who will be in my life? How will love look? Is it a cabin on a mountain, secluded, just me and the mountains to hike. An occasional trip to the local pub to grab a beer and a conversation. Will it be a little cottage on a beach and days spent running in the sand (ok walking) and a suntan and waves and walks into town for good food. Will it be a condo downtown near all the “stuff” and I can walk to coffee and shops and see people all the time. Honestly any of those sound amazing. As long as there’s no fences. NO FENCES. Not knowing is scary. Not having kids here all the time is scary. Not knowing what life holds is scary. But its also fucking amazing. So just like the day I became a Mom- scared shitless, not knowing what the hell was in front of me, how Id screw this kid up, how Id get through it all…..I get to look ahead at a new phase and be scared shitless….and excited..and anxious…and not know. So I’ll flap my wings a little, test them out, I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll pray and I’ll dance in my socks and I’ll put one foot in front of the other…..because backwards is no place to go.
When you get married and buy the house with the picket fence and get the dog and have the 2.5 kids you have it all. You do. Its how its supposed to be, right? I got lucky. Amazing husband, two crazy awesome kids and a great place to live. I watch how other people parent. How patient they are and how they make their children such a huge priority. I do as well. My kids, my family…they are my life. I would kill for them. Die for them. And I am a Wife and Mom. Proudly. Happily. It is my greatest role in life. The best two things I’ve ever done are those two kids. And after MANY pregnancy losses I am acutely aware of how lucky & blessed I am to be called Mom. It’s my favorite name. Do you sense a “but” coming?
I’ve often thought of a bride when she walks down the aisle. Such a symbolic gesture of Father “giving daughter away” to her husband. My Dad did. He cried. I cried. I was born Jennifer Renee Ellis. When I went to legally change my name after I got married I changed it to Jennifer Ellis Nugent. It says that on my social security card. A name may only be symbolic to some. But when I BECAME Jennifer Nugent I did not let go of Jennifer Ellis. When I became a Mom I did not lose my dreams. For me. My desires and visions and the things I wanted for myself. When you become a family your dreams broaden. I dream for 4. I dream for my kids to have a beautiful happy future and for Patrick to race again and for us to all be ok. I’ll beat some doors down, pick, fight, claw and never stop working for those dreams to come true for them. But I still dream for me. And I wont feel guilty about that. I wont.
I think there’s this layer of foggy guilt that lies across a mother. For when she does things for herself it is selfish. It is not for her family. I work with women who feel too guilty to workout, get fit, take time for themselves. They can’t seem to justify 30 minutes a day just for them if it takes time away from their kids or husband. And I know its harder for Moms/parents of smaller kids. But part of my “job”, my calling…is to let people know its ok to dream for YOU. And be unapologetic about it. My Mom and Dad were very much in love. They vacationed together and separately. My Dad took trips with his buddies (usually on a Harley through the mountains). And my Mom took girls weekends trips with her friends (usually to a spa or retreat of some sort). I grew up watching this. And it was my normal. And it worked. They took time together, many trips, many nights out for “dates”. But they also took time for themselves. When you marry at 18 like they did its pretty important, difficult, and awesome to continue to hold on to YOU. That part of you that was YOU before there was anyone else.
This whole Beachbody Coaching thing has been a DREAM. Along with that dream comes trips I earn, work trips, meetings, fun stuff. Stuff I have to leave town for. Stuff I have to leave my kids for. So I miss some things. Once in awhile. I’ve missed a couple of soccer games and a few cheer performances. And I was sad about it but…..I am a good Mom. I am completely and beautifully and crazily bad at this parenting thing MOST of the time but I know Im a good Mom. Because I have GOOD kids. And those kids watch me chase MY dreams. Watch me do this thing for ME! Its mine. And I hope Im showing them that its ok to always chase your dreams. And I mean that in the very most selfish of ways. I thank my family for understanding and standing behind my dreams. Because I never stopped being that girl- Jennifer Ellis- that had big dreams. How beautiful that I get to chase them now. Relentlessly and unapologetically. Dream a little. Dream a LOT. Dream big and never EVER lose YOU!
Dear High School,
She was literally JUST born. I swear. We were so excited. After many miscarriages and the realization that I may not have a child she came along. And our entire world changed. Our. Entire. World. You can tell people what its going to be like. To be a parent. But you have no idea. You have absolutely no damn idea until you are one. I spent many years in the beginning worried something would happen to her and I would lose her. I’d lost so many pregnancies pretty late term I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that she was mine. Alive and well and healthy and happy and mine. For now. I’ve slowly let go of that worry over the years. I will always worry. Every parent does. But she was here for 15 years in this house, under our rules, under our guidance and mostly influenced by us. OK…let’s be honest…she’s MY child so she’s pretty much had a mind of her own since birth. And for that- I am grateful.
And now High School you get her. You get to have her 8 hours a day. With your soda machines and snack bars and fancy lounge areas and tech center and career counselors and college planning team and boys with mustaches and muscles and football players and boys driving cars and parties and decisions I cannot help her make and your lockers in big hallways and advanced classes and teachers who do not know she suffers from Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos. Who do not know she is always in pain. Who do not know she worries about her Dad and her grades and Cheerleading and college and me. You get her but you don’t know her like I do. I carried her. I wiped her nose and her butt. I drove her to doctor appointments and spread eagled across her toddler body to hold her down while they stuck needles and immunizations in her leg while she screamed and it took every ounce of my body not to punch the doctor square in the face.
I stayed up many long, LONG nights with no sleep and vomit and accidents and nightmares and worry. Many cartoons at 2 in the morning to get through fevers. Many tears from torn stuffed animals by the dog. You were not there High School- but I was. And now you get her.
I swear we just brought her home from the hospital. Clueless. I swear we just dropped her off at Kindergarten and I cried through the door window watching her with Mrs. Hartman and crying with the other Kinder Moms. I swear we just moved to Colorado and I shook & cried as I dropped her at a new Middle School and hoped and prayed she’d make at least one friend. And now I hand her to you.
And she asked if she could ride to school with friends her first day of school tomorrow. And my heart stopped and my voice cracked as I said “sure”. And so it goes. And so she goes. Through doors, big doors. Big doors that she will never turn back from again. I know what you do High School. You make kids grow up. You make kids spend more time with friends than family. You make kids go to parties and make sometimes bad decisions and maybe bury sign posts in the practice football field out back…oh wait…that was MY HIGH SCHOOL.
But I also know you make kids independent. You introduce them to friends that will last a lifetime. You get kids involved in Cheerleading & other activities where she will find her best friends. You teach her way more than there is in a textbook. About sharing and empathy and unfairness and reality. You are the first place she drives to. You are the place she spends most of her time. You are the place that will help her decide where to go to college and what to do with her life. Tomorrow my baby starts High School. Tomorrow that little girl in her velcro Keds and green lacy back to school dress will wear a CHEER UNIFORM TO HIGH SCHOOL. I hand her to you and hope that all we’ve taught her STICKS. That at that party that night….and there will be one….she will make the RIGHT decision. That on those tests she’ll do her best. That she’ll kick every boys ass she can. Take care of her High School. She’s a good one!