I’m in St. Petersburg, Florida, hanging out with seven of my favorite women. We met our freshman year of college, thrust together by chance and circumstance on the third floor of Baldwin Hall—a square, nondescript dormitory smack in the center of our college campus. We stumbled our way through our freshman year, building a solid friendship one stupid mistake at a time. After college, we went off in seven completely different directions, but we have worked fiercely to keep ourselves connected to one another.
So here we are, 24 years after our first meeting, and we've become college graduates, teachers, professors, salespeople, scientists, mothers, homeowners, and lots of other stuff, too. We’re still flopping around, trying to find our way, but still, once a year, we come together to talk about the path and the stumbles and the triumphs.
With the passage of time, the main difference is that we’re all deep in the motherhood thing.
Yesterday at lunch, we talked about that.
We’d spent the morning on the beach—a feat in itself for the northerners in the group, who had been receiving texts from downtrodden spouses back home immersed in a snowstorm. Not us, though. We were warm. It was sunny and sandy and salty and perfect.
Midday, we meandered our way toward a nearby hotel and sat down at the pool restaurant for lunch. As we waited for our food, we fell into our typical routine of talking about the stuff that's happened to us in the past year—and years beyond, too.
"I love the forties," several of us said. "We're in good relationships; we have stable work; we're connected to good friends. In a lot of ways, we've figured stuff out."
“I feel like there’s some self-actualization,” someone else said. “Like I’ve come to know and understand my flaws and faults. And I’m really okay with them.”
“I can even laugh at them,” said another. “My things are just part of who I am. I’ve got things. Yeah. So what. So does everyone.”
Which led us to our children. We all admitted that we see traits in our children that mirror our own things. Anxiety. Fear. Perfectionism. The ability to be crushed; a refusal to compromise; a naive and foolish view of how things work in the world. And so on. All seven of us are identifying the things we've passed on to our children that we, ourselves, had to manage or overcome over the course of our four decades.
“The crappy thing is that they’re going to have to recognize and manage these things on their own,” someone said. “We can give them all the hints and the tricks that worked for us—the things that carried us along through the mess and pushed us out to the place of acceptance. But they don’t want to listen, necessarily, and they don’t have to.”
“Because they have to find their own way.”
“And it’s going to be hard.”
“And for us.”
Said every parent ever.
Let the journey continue.