An open-hearted letter to women from the previous generation:
Hi there. I know this will sound odd coming from behind a computer screen, but dear woman who is 20+ years older than me… I want you to know I see YOU. I don’t mean that in a creepy way. I mean that in the way that I hope you might be able to see me if you get to know me- the me under the peanut-butter covered sweatshirt and mystery gunk that is acting like styling gel in my ponytail.
I see YOU. I’ve seen you in the supermarket, running errands, and especially in church. I see your fun jewelry and remember what it was like when earrings weren’t a major danger to my soft tissue. I see your matching, clean outfit that you put on and realize that it took TIME to do. There may be a tiny spark of jealousy at your freedom, but I also see your adult children near you or that bag of canned goods for the food pantry dangling from your arm instead of a diaper bag. I see you smile down lovingly at the darling little cherub that had me hyperventilating in the car a moment ago and remember that this child really is lovable even when he isn’t likable. I see love in your eyes, not the lines that come from years of smiles.
Tonight I desperately pushed my double stroller down the street and stopped to chat with my 87 year old neighbor who was raking leaves. She was vibrant, funny and genuine—and I noticed that she had gorgeous blue eyes. When she laughed her creases ran from her mouth to her eyes in a way that demonstrated the joy she felt when talking about HER two boys that were born 13 months apart over 64 years ago. She invited me over any time and didn’t chastise my kids for being impatient, crying, or dropping a toy multiple times. She heaped joy upon us like golden leaves onto a pile. As I walked away I thought, “I want to be like that.” Not when I’m 87, either. I want to be like that NOW.
I also HEAR you. As I try to control what I say about my little ones or about others in their hearing, I realize I am still a sponge. I soak up advice and admonishments, trying to sort through to find truth. I soak up what you say. When you tell me that I am doing a great job, it is like salve on the slices from doubt and fear that cut me to my core. When you criticize yourself to a friend that you hate your gray hair or need to lose 10 pounds, I soak that up too. I appreciate those arms that are softer than they used to be, because I know what it takes to have rocked babies for so many years and carried the weight of making holidays memorable. Your knees may hurt after walking in heels, but I know that those knees have been on the ground playing with little ones and have spent hours on the hard floor in prayer. Your posture may not be perfectly aligned anymore, but I now appreciate all you have shouldered in 45 years of marriage. I really, really think you are beautiful. Please don’t down-grade yourself. I actually really appreciated your support when your hot flashes and my pregnancy made us the only two fanning ourselves in a room where everyone else was wearing a parka. Enjoying our different seasons together makes for a dynamic duo!
I also APPRECIATE you. I don’t just want to know those quick tips for mothering, housekeeping, working in a certain profession, etc. although those things are wonderful. You are MORE than that. I appreciate your daring willingness to try something new and urge others out of their comfort zones. I appreciate how you truly listen to God and yearn to apply it to your life. I appreciate that you are still growing and learning. I appreciate how you ask me how I am, and not just how my children are because you remember what it was like to be lost in what you were doing. I appreciate that you are beyond the seasons revolving around play dates, homework, college and lost shoes and can have a conversation about an interesting book, an intriguing public figure or a great pair of shoes I might be hiding from my teen. I appreciate that you can smell that sweet baby smell on my son when all I smell on him is sweet potatoes, vomit and a wet diaper.
I ADMIRE you. I see you walking very slowly next to your husband of decades and see him hold your hand. Do you ever notice us younger girls smiling and swooning? It is because that gives us HOPE. When you then chatter away and we notice him turn his hearing aid down, we giggle and realize it isn’t just our man who isn’t listening. I see you walk into church with your son with special needs and hear him singing. I smile and choke back tears because I am in your club that so few understand. You have championed a cause and raised a handsome, life-changing young man without the resources available to me. I admire you for wearing your gray crown of glory proudly. I admire how you managed to hold it all together through wars, unemployment and fears. I admire how you are disciplined in taking time for others and to just be still.
Precious, beautiful woman who is old enough to be my mother or grandmother, PLEASE mentor me. I googled reasons NOT to be a mentor mom and guess what I found? Not ONE reason. Instead I found 13,000,005 results on mentor mom groups, blogs, and articles about the importance of mentoring relationships for both gender and in all settings.I can find advice, how-tos, cute ideas and more guides on womanhood and mothering than I could ever implement. I don’t get relationships out of that. No love- just an unreachable standard.
You really, really need to be a mentor.Why? Because God, through Paul writing in a letter to Titus, says so. That should be enough.
Also, because my son could run through the house at any moment in all manner of disarray and I need back-up.
Kids say the darndest things, and you don’t want to miss it. Multi-generational relationships are good for your health too. Teaching me gives you an outlet for all you have learned and gives us an opportunity to grow together. My mother in law is the world’s BEST stocking stuffer and Easter basket maker. She has taught me a little more each holiday we are together, and shopping with her is fun because I am learning and building a relationship (and also asking how on EARTH to raise a son just like hers!) Maybe we younger girls could teach you a new skill or encourage you to buy those funky high heels or beautiful dress for a date night with your man!
My mother is a very busy woman. She is still an involved grandmother and works full time. On Tuesday nights the house is FILLED with college aged girls that are exhausted, busy and hungry. They pile in with their cute work-out gear, sparkly outfits and bubbly personalities and they just BE. Mom sets out the food and lemonade and then smiles for 2 straight hours. She positively GLOWS when these girls giggle and reach for second helpings at her table, hug her and report on their study habits. I got to see this a few times during a recent visit home and I watched my mother closely. She seemed so relaxed and in her element. As the girls poured out their college woes of schedules, roommates, prioritizing and cutting through the lies society sells, she gently asked meaningful questions, affirmed and made wise decisions. I had to bite my tongue to keep advice from pouring out because those woes were so recent and familiar. Instead I got to really look at my mother and think, “Wow. I want to be like that.”
You have so much to offer. You are so beautiful, so engaging, and still on a journey. You matter to me. I see you. I hear you. I appreciate you. I admire you. Please, let me get to know you so that I can love you and one day tell a young mentor mom about how you made my life better. To those who have already mentored me and are currently mentoring others, thank you. You are changing the world.