Years ago, when our daughter was in daycare, I spoke to the mother of one of her friends. During her pregnancy, the other mother had gained a lot of weight that had never gone away.
“I always blame it on the baby,” she shrugged. “Somebody asked me about it recently — when I’d given birth. I had to tell her ‘the baby’ was five.”
I get that. Oh, yeah. Once you have a perfect excuse, you never want to let it go — no matter how ancient, tattered, and completely inappropriate it is.
Along the same lines, having children became my husband’s and my all-purpose excuse for just about every one of our shortcomings.
Why didn’t we have exciting parties the way we used to — you know, the kind that lasted till dawn, with several of our guests passing out in the front yard? Because we had children, that’s why.
Why did we always look so beat? The children!
Why was our house such a mess? The children!
Why didn’t we get out much? The children!
Why didn’t we have any energy? The children!
We were off the hook for everything, including our lack of fashion savvy, our ignorance of the latest movies, the tacky way we wrapped birthday presents in newspaper pages.
You’re expecting a miracle, maybe? We have kids. Capisce?
The years pass, the years become decades, our “children” are 32 and 28. And sure, we get out more than we used to and our house isn’t such a mess. But everyone of any age and stage in life still needs an all-purpose, go-to excuse — and it’s unsettling when yours is snatched away. (It’s like spending years blaming your bad moods on PMS: What are you going to do when you hit menopause? Blame yourself and your rotten disposition? Certainly not.)
Or wait a minute. Hold on. Maybe, it occurs to me, we’ve entered a new era in our lives. Maybe we no longer give parties that last till dawn simply because we don’t want to. We’ve done it and it was great fun and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. But its time has passed.
These days, we have lots of other activities — like taking long naps and watching highly challenging TV series. I would apologize for that, but I’ve already spent too much of my life apologizing and making excuses.
At this later point in life, I’m pretty sure we’re doing it because we enjoy it. No way I’ll be apologizing for that.
(Copyright 2014 by Ruth Pennebaker)