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With the recent 6% increase in birthrate for women above the age of 40 in the USA being characterized as a mini baby boom, we’re staring at the impending prospect of the “extended family” withering on the ancestral vine.
What this means is that one of the most significant liabilities of having your children after 40 is the risk of not having your mom or dad to turn to at times of kid-raising crisis.
For instance, when things get tough with parenting my kids—like this morning when Alex refused to brush his teeth while I imagined the school car pool lady exploding like an angry blow fish outside the front gate—I instinctively want to reach out for my mom and ask her what to do.
“MOMMMMMMMMM!”, I’d shout from the rooftops. But she’s not there. And she never will be.
In fact, she’s been gone for so long, sometimes I still need a photograph to see her face again. It’s like she was swallowed up by an unrepentant wormhole in time and I lost her forever, at the tender age of 24.
All that’s left of her can fit in a dusty memory box in the attic of my mind—little puffs of meringue on a rotary egg beater before they are lathered on a tart lemon-filled pie crust. Pizza dough being pummeled into flour on the Formica kitchen table, just like my Italian grandmother had taught her to do it.
The tangy smell of vinegar mixed with water, her home made cleansing recipe for the windows and mirrors.
Then there was the giggle of mischief when she put us up to something normally verboten, like trouncing on the master bed as if it were an Olympic trampoline when Dad was at work.
It was another time—in truth, another century ago.
Where did she go? And where the hell is she now, when I need her most?
It is with concealed envy that I watch young mothers these days, toting their mothers behind them—the grandma—and taking their undying support and commitment to the next generation for granted, or with a sense of entitlement.
Oh how I’d love to strangle them, or rob them at gunpoint of the grandparents.
It’s a maternal condition that Allison Gilbert, author of Parentless Parents (http://www NULL.allisongilbert NULL.com/), understands all too well.
“The population of parentless parents is exploding and will continue to rise if the average age of women giving birth keeps getting higher and higher,” she says.
According to Gilbert, the upshot of this pattern means that more women having children after 40 are going to be parenting without the support of their own parents; and their children will have fewer years with their grandparents.
“We could read every parenting book in the world and still never learn what we really want to know from our moms and dads,” she continues.
“Many mothers and fathers report feeling jealous of friends who have parents.”
Worse, your children will also suffer from what Gilbert calls the Grandparent Gap—children without grandparents in their lives.
No kidding. It’s only a matter of time before some young entrepreneurial buckaroo invents an ancillary cottage industry for the over-40 mom market: Rent-A-Granddad, or Grannies-R-Us—“We do christenings, bar mitzvahs, graduations and weddings. No occasion too small for our septa- and octogenarians!”
Seriously, though, Gilbert points out that research demonstrates that grandparents play an important role in shaping a child’s development.
Damage control, she says, can be attained through making our children familiar with their grandparents who’ve passed on through photographs, storytelling and introducing them to important places—a way of keeping the memory “alive.”
Her book, which has garnered her several TV appearances, including on CNN, will prove a useful resource to many later life moms.
In the meantime, however, it looks to me like we’re all just part of a vast cosmic crap shoot against the miserly Grim Reaper.
Outliving my mother by 30 years, my 82-year-old Dad turned up at our house last Christmas and regaled my children with even more real life tales of his brothers on the WWII front, and how Uncle Tony fought with Montgomery in North Africa, or how he once trained with hockey legend Dit Clapper (http://bruinslegends NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2007/03/dit-clapper NULL.html) who played in the NHL for the Boston Bruins during the 1930s and 40s, and was later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (http://www NULL.legendsofhockey NULL.net/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember NULL.jsp?mem=p194701&type=Player&page=bio&list=#photo) in 1947.
I looked on, sincerely doubting that my children would ever again receive history lessons such as these.
Gilbert was right—grandparents do provide a rather exotic refuge from life as we know it.
Notes for this blog:
Allison Gilbert’s website and book: http://www.allisongilbert.com/ (http://www NULL.allisongilbert NULL.com/)
- (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/health-headlines/women-increasingly-going-online-to-seek-free-sperm-donors-1 NULL.1590245)
Angel on CNN(http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)
CNN Mother's Day: "Mature Moms" (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)(http://youtu NULL.be/atScMih4_d0) (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
AARP's "Inside E-Sreet" on PBS TV (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
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