A New Demographic

It’s 11:25pm the night before I turn 35 and I feel like I want to physically reach out and press against time. Slow it down. Stop it, for a moment, for many.

I have been so lucky in my life and I have such high hopes for the future. I should also note that not a single birthday has bothered me. Except this one.

I have some theories.

At the YMCA when I option in my weight and age on the elliptical machine the age given is 35. From here on out, I press the up arrow.

Then there is the little matter of the little black boxes next to the different age demographics on various forms. For years I’ve been ticking the 25-34 box. Come tomorrow, I’ll be checking the 35-44 box.

Please don’t mistake this for an essay on feeling old. Thirty-five is not old. Rather, this is an essay on the passage of time—the ever-swifter passage of time.

Ten years ago, when I graduated to the 25-34 demographic, I was living in a lovely old townhouse in Mariemont with my good friend Jenna. We would go to work, come home, heat up frozen veggies in the microwave for dinner, drown them in spray butter (I know), and follow that up with large bowls of ice cream while watching “Sex and the City” out of order on DVDs we found at the library. I was an editor at Popular Woodworking magazine, looking for misplaced commas and building the most uncomfortable Windsor chair ever built while writing about craftspeople who built the most beautiful things. I was planning on marrying a guy I had dated since my sophomore year of college at The Cincinnati Observatory, a place I also volunteered. Thursday nights at Arthur’s with friends were some of my favorite nights. I listened to Patty Griffin constantly. I was lighter in weight as well as in years and the future seemed so far, so bright, so bold.

And it has been bright. And it has been bold. But now, as I think about my next 10 years, everything feels more settled. And there’s comfort in that, but weariness, too. Some mornings, I laugh on the inside at my face in the mirror. I laugh at this universe that thinks I’m capable—old enough—to be married, with three children, in a house we owe and owe and owe for, paid, in part, doing work I second-guess myself on all the time.

I am told this is normal.

That said, hope for brighter and bolder hasn’t been completely lost. After the one (or three) slices of French strawberry torte I plan to eat tomorrow I have big plans for my relationship with the machines a the Y. I will keep submitting my picture books, even though I’ve been submitting for six years now. I figure there’s still hope when the rejections still sting. The hopes I have for my children are most intense and they are also the reason I most want to slow down, back up, retreat, pause. And yet, at the same time, I can’t wait for them to march through all their years and experience all of everything and so I try to remain present in the now, the 35 and one day, the 35 and two days, and so on.

It just feels not so long ago that I was in the newly-married-new-parent demographic. And before that, the young-adult demographic. And before that, the teenager demographic. Truly, it all seems so recent.

I can think back 30 years, to when I was 5. I remember my blue tricycle with the white plastic basket and my Strawberry Shortcake sheets and the feel of our concrete front stoop. Thirty years from now, I’ll be 65. 65.

And last time I checked, weren’t my parents 35? No?

Age, time—it’s a funny thing, something birthdays inspire thinking about.

Once, while on a road trip with friends, we were playing “Would You Rather” with each other in three different cars, via walkie-talkies. All the questions, of course, were ridiculously fun and then it was my turn. My question: “Would your rather live a great life and die at the age of 25, or live a horrible life and live to be 100?” (I am quite skilled at awkwardly turning light conversation into serious talk.) It’s an impossible question, dependent on so much.

Here I am. Ten years beyond what was then, on a highway with friends so many years ago, several years away. And it’s been great. So my expectations are high, for all the good and not-so-good that will fill the little black box next to 35-44.


I think.

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” —Henry David Thoreau

A Lesson In Parenting Found in a Bottle of Glittery Nail Polish

Sophie wants to wear nail polish. Apparently all her friends do at preschool (including a boy she’s friends with). I painted her nails once, over a weekend. She loved it. My thought process isn’t completely clear when it comes to this matter. I will try to use bullet points to organize it a bit more:

Reasons Why We Haven’t Let Her Wear It:
• too young
• all my women’s studies courses
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life
• premature sexualization of children
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old
• fear of her caring too much how she looks


I’m sure many of you are thinking “but, but, but.” Just like Sophie. Last Friday she had some friends over. A couple hours into the play date they all came down and Sophie asked if I could paint everyone’s nails. I told her no. I told her I didn’t know how the other parents felt about it.

She threw a fit.

A fit!

I pulled her away from her friends, and took her upstairs. The following came out of her mouth:

“You never let me do anything!”

“All of my friends are allowed to wear it!”

“You’re not being fair.”

And, my favorite: “You’re treating me like a 2 year old!”

Well, of course I wasn’t going to paint her nails after all of that.

But still, her tantrum gave me pause. I thought about all the reasons I don’t let her wear nail polish. And I argued them, in my head— essentially making another list, with rebuttals.

Reasons Why Maybe We Should Let Her Wear It:
• too young (How does one determine this?)
• all my women’s studies courses (I don’t even really know what this means.)
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life (This is true.)
• premature sexualization of children (I’d have to read more about this but honestly, I don’t have the time.)
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later (This is true.)
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old (Andy brought this one up. But a paler color could solve this.)
• fear of her caring too much how she looks (Honestly, I don’t think it’s about that. Not yet.)

Monday morning I took her to the doctor. Sunday night her temperature spiked to 105.6°. Turns out she has strep. So, she missed Tuesday and today at school. Tuesday night I went to the grocery store. And I bought her pale, pale pink polish—full of glitter.

It was perfect.

It looks childish—not much color and all that glitter. It was the perfect sick day/rainy day treat. She found so much joy in it.

Maybe, I thought, I was over-thinking, this whole nail polish thing.

So I didn’t over-think at all when Owen and James asked for some, too. Everyone got glittery nails, and everyone loved them. It was akin to face paint (which we do almost weekly). Or dressing up (which we do almost daily).

It was fun.

Of course it was good to not cave to her in-the-moment tantrum. But I also think it was good to think about what she said (no matter how scary teenager-speak like it was). And to really sit down and think about why. And then to decide that maybe, just maybe, it’s not that big of a deal.

Because honestly? Half the time I don’t know what’s best. I know there will be things I don’t let her do now that later, I will realize it would have been OK for her to do younger. Just as I know there will be things I do let her do now that later, I will wish I would have made her wait. But. I do know today I had three small children running around the house, happy (so happy!) with glitter on their nails. And that made their morning a little more magical. And that made everyone’s day, mine included, a little brighter.

There can’t be harm in that.

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.” —Angela Schwindt

Two Too

Sophie’s birthday is Saturday. As such, conversations with the kids this week have largely centered around age. A couple days ago, in the car, Owen asked me how old he was. “You’re 2,” I said. Then, James asked me how old he was. “You’re 2, too,” I said.

Yesterday we were talking about ages (again). Owen said, “I’m 2!” And James said, “I’m 2 and 2!” And they agree on the matter. Owen will tell you James is “2 and 2” and he’s “2.”

Which is, I suppose, exactly what I said.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” —Satchel Paige