I enjoy varying my choice of clothing, jewelry, purses, shoes, hair style, always craving a new look. Yet, generally, life provides changes on a much larger scale, which can be challenging.
With every major milestone in my life, I have experienced a period of adjustment. Of course, having children was the biggest adjustment. First there were two of us, able to come and go, make spur-of-the-moment plans, sleep late, stay up late, and then suddenly all of this was altered or even removed. After getting used to this new being in our house, life with the three of us became the new normal to the point that we couldn’t remember life without our child.
With our two subsequent little ones, again, I had to adjust. People say once you have one child, it’s not that much different to have another. Sure, the loss of some freedoms has already been accepted, but I found that having two required major changes in schedules and depleted energy. By three, I felt as if I were a juggler, with balls in the air all the time, and many dropping.
As a mom of younger kids, I remember feeling at loose ends at the completion of the school year, which suddenly meant a new summer schedule. When I adjusted to this different routine, it was time for my boys to return to school and start the craziness of carpools, homework, after-school activities, all over again. Over the three months, I had adapted to the relaxed pace of the summer and all that it entailed and suddenly I was back to the rat race, which was ironically once comfortable, yet I had to readjust all over again.
Some Changes Are Effortless
Unlike having children, having grandchildren required absolutely no adjustments. This has been one of the only changes in my life that I assumed effortlessly and without some form of trepidation. My role of Nana is truly a gift. Because I am not the parent, my function is different and far easier and overall more fun (yes, parenting can be fun, but the diligence required to do everything as well as possible places limitations on the overall feeling of fun if one is to be honest).
There can be no greater joy than seeing one’s child become a loving parent and then, as a grandparent, to be given the opportunity to watch over and play with these new little lives. My grandson and granddaughter have given me another way in which to become young again and watch the world unfold through their little eyes. I cherish this change every day.
The Transition to Caregiver
But, age doesn’t necessarily make for an easier transition to change. I had to transform from a daughter who was worried about and cared for to a daughter who became the worrier of her parents and protector of my fragile wheelchair-ridden father.
I never did fully adjust to this change—becoming the daughter of ill parents. My memories kept playing tricks on me, bringing me back to happier, healthier days of my parents’ activities and full lives. I did my best to recreate a new vision of my mother and father, the one that required me to have inordinate patience as they became old and ill, yet there was a part of me that kept pulling me back to another time, another set of parents. It was always a bittersweet tug of war, one I never quite won.
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...And then, Retirement
Change has been profound as a recent retiree. I had defined myself as an English professor for four decades. Suddenly, I must use ‘past tense’ in describing my career and profession. One of my friends stated that she plans to use present tense despite retiring one day, but I disagree. The act of teaching, for me, is completed; it has ended.
How can I say that I am still a teacher? My full-time job has concluded and I will not actively teach again.
This has been a very difficult adjustment, for I loved the act and art of teaching and have adored my students. Perhaps, then, there are some changes that we can acknowledge we might never fully accept.
A New Career, A New Identity, A New Future
Another interesting change has been the recent title of ‘author.’ In our society, we can write for our entire lives, but unless writing is published, we aren’t called ‘authors.’ I have always been a writer. Suddenly, though, I am also an author. This new moniker carries with it a tremendous responsibility to make sure my writing finds a place ‘out there’ in the world for others to read—a joyful yet mystifying change.
And of course, one of the immense changes is my aging, which is a slow process reinforced by comparing my current photos with those of a couple from the past (even a couple of years ago) and my new aches and pains. But, it is a gift to age, for the alternative is very sad, indeed.
I am truly grateful for the changes which life provides, for they come with incredible lessons of growth and learning—and amazing rewards.
Yes, I have come to accept change in all its forms.
Copyright 2017 by Barbara Jaffe. All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
When Will I Be Good Enough?: A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing
by Barbara Jaffe Ed.D.
Barbara was born to fill the vacancy left by her little brother, who died at the age of two. This book tells the multitude of readers who have been “replacement children” for many reasons, that they, too, can find hope and healing, as did Barbara.
About the Author
Barbara Jaffe, Ed.D. is an award-winning English professor at El Camino College, California and is a Fellow in UCLA’s Department of Education. She has offered countless workshops to students to help them find their writers’ voices through writing non-fiction. Her college has honored her by naming her Outstanding Woman of the Year and Distinguished Teacher of the Year. Visit her website at BarbaraAnnJaffe.com