One of my besties is twenty two years my senior. Like me, she has three boys, but hers are grown; I call her the Ghost of Christina Future. The challenging and exhausting parts of parenting young children are in her rearview mirror. I envision her basking in the glow of an empty nest utopia, enjoying infinite leisure time rather than spending the day cleaning up other people’s bodily functions or listening to bickering. But perhaps the grass is always greener, because while she does admit to loving the free time and finally — finally! — getting to own nice things without dried Play-doh caked on them, she also promises me I am going to miss these early years one day. This remains to be seen, but I guess I’ll have to trust her (for the record, I will never miss blowout diapers).
“Does this everrrr get easier,” I often whine to her. She is a wellspring of guidance and encouragement. Having surpassed my phase of life already, she actually has been there, and has lived to tell the tale. Which she regularly does, and it calms me down by putting things in perspective. She serves as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for me.
Right now it’s second grade math that is currently wreaking havoc in my life. She assures me it will be a tiny blip in time and convinces me that in the grand scheme of life this really isn’t worth getting so worked up over. She suggests I shift my focus to more, ahem, productive endeavors, perhaps showering.
For her, I serve as a reminder of all the little kid cuteness (hello dinosaur jammies and gap-tooth smiles) and misery (hello potty-training and teething) that she has endured and is now comfortably on the other side of. I often hear her laughing heartily at my infinite stories of toddler tomfoolery. Whether she is laughing at me or with me is unclear, but I’ll take it either way (and by the way, she assures me that it does not, in fact, get easier; it just gets different).
I wasn’t too sure I was ready to offer that kind of perspective to somebody else, so when my mom’s group partnered with some teen moms, my first reaction was apprehension. Though I’m in my thirties, I do not feel worthy of dispensing advice to anyone. As a mom I feel like a hot mess. Case in point, just this morning, I realized I’ve been faithfully watering a plastic aloe vera plant for the last year. In my defense, it does look — and feel — incredibly life-like. What could I possibly offer this sweet young girl in need of a “real” adult to offer her leadership?
It turns out, a lot. Despite me not having all my crap together, I have figured some things out. I have my story — which involves a few (read: a lot) of mistakes (and even some triumphs) — which I am happy to share with her, in hopes that she can commiserate and learn from them, both the good and the bad life passages.
I’m touched by the deeply meaningful connection we share and I’ve come to believe what I have gained from her far exceeds what she has learned from me. She is the most resilient and frankly, badass, mom I know. She is “generation Z,” so her parenting mentality and practices slightly differ from mine. Watching her parent her daughter inspires me to be less rigid and more spontaneous with my own kids. What started as a mentor relationship has morphed into a true friendship.
Life is truly sweeter when shared with friends, be they young or young at heart. My world and perception of parenting are far richer and more robust for having these unique multi-generational friendships. I couldn’t be more grateful for them. At the end of the day — despite our vast age differences and phases of life — we’re really just moms, laughing and lamenting at the overlapping pain and splendor of raising kids, and bonding over the multitude of other facets that inextricably bind us together in our motherhood journeys.
Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mom to three feral little boys. She spends her days putting out fires (actual and metaphorical) and trying to keep goldfish alive. Her words have appeared in Newsweek, HuffPost, Health Magazine, Parents, Scary Mommy, Today Show Parents, and more. You can follow along on Twitter where she writes (questionably) funny anecdotes about her life at @Xtina_Crawford