I suppose some moms have a favorite age: babyhood, toddler days, second-graders, ten-year-olds, teens. I suppose some wish they could freeze-frame the moment and live indefinitely at that favorite age, recycling all the best times.
But I imagine most moms are a lot more like me, and find that their "favorite age" is whatever age they're currently living through.
Take fifteen, for example. Anne-with-an-e is fifteen, recently turned so. This is my favorite age, because fifteen is fascinating. Anne reads about all kinds of things. She reads novels and biographies, books about medical conditions and, if it's in front of her, she'll read the back of a cereal box. She has an almost photographic memory about so many things. She tells me about her reading in great detail, and with great wit. She recommends books to me. She writes stories. She has braces and hates them, but chooses fun, coordinating colors for her rubber bands, because at least that helps, a little. She wants to be a writer, or a vet. She comes to me with the most heart-tugging, endearing, troubled look on her face when she has something to talk about, and then she talks to me. We work through it and she then has the most heart-tugging, endearing, peaceful look on her beautiful face. And she reminds me that this is the essence of my job ... to help three beautiful young people navigate their way through a very messy and stormy sea called Life on This Earth.
And let's look at twelve, as another example. Betsy is twelve. This is my favorite age, because twelve is fascinating, with its fantabulous way of being all over the map. Half-child, half-grown-Betsy is a reader, a writer, a mathematician, a clothing designer, and our Electronics Whisperer. When she grows up, she wants to sing on Broadway or join the Geek Squad. When she was eight, I described her as the kind of girly-tomboy who loves soccer but wants to fix her hair and put something sparkly in it before she plays. She has braces and loves them, and chooses fun, coordinating colors for her rubber bands because that's the fun thing about braces. She couldn't wait to get glasses and they only add to her smarts and beauty. She is dramatic and funny. She comes to me when she's troubled, but less often than Anne, because Betsy is a middle child, and (being one myself) I worry about her for that reason. I want her to know that she stands out in that middle position in spectacular ways, because she is a spectacular person.
And what about six? Six is my favorite age, because six is fascinating. Six is Ramona reading everything she sees. Six is writing in huge, messy letters with enormous pride and beaming at mastering addition. Six is Ramona with chocolate smeared around her six-year-old mouth, earnestly telling me a story about the lady she saw in the grocery store. Six is me licking my finger to use as a cleaning tool, and tidying up her mouth while she continues with her story, caring not a bit that I'm using spit on her face. Six is the look of utter and complete anguish when Mommy has to be gone nearly all day on a Saturday, and Ramona isn't sure she will survive the separation. It's a growing awareness of the injustice of a world in which one lives with older sisters who get to do a lot more stuff. Six is knowing, without a doubt, that Jesus is the King, and Kings never let us down. And six is still fodder for great blog posts, the poor child.
And what of adding fifteen, twelve and six together? I recently had two experiences that showed me something about the sum of these parts.
A couple of weeks ago, we thought we noticed a strange smell in the house. I called the gas company, and -- hey, have you ever had them give you instructions to leave your house? Not reassuring words. In a deliberately calm tone that made me feel terrified, the well-trained woman on the phone told me, "Do not open a window. Do not unplug anything. Do not do anything that could cause a spark. Do not hang up the phone. Leave the house now .... " In the meantime, I glanced over at 15, 12 and 6, and they were donning coats, gathering up animals (yes, Mr. Putter and Ralph left the house with us) and calmly getting ready to leave. They were amazing. I could count on them in a weird emergency to do exactly what I needed them to do.
A couple days later, I ended up in the ER in the middle of the night (due to what they decided -- more definitively than last summer -- was costochondritis, which is not a heart problem, but sorta, kinda feels like one at midnight, when it wakes you up with chest pain. Next time I'll know.) Again I was shown that I can count on 15 and 12 in a weird emergency, and I can count on them to take excellent, thoughtful care of 6 even when they're scared out of their wits.
A huge sigh of relief. This parenting gig I've accepted seems to be unfolding fairly well. We're not at the end of it yet, and I know that before we're done, there will be new challenges and more stormy seas. And, I know I'll add new favorite ages to my mothering resume.
But for now, I'm finding it all fascinating, and for now, 15+12+6 = My Favorite Age.