My first-born turned 16 recently, and that was just the latest in a series of reminders of my own aging - roots that need touching up way more often than I can afford, having two children with hair on their legs, my own dear husband referring affectionately to his '50-something' sweetheart (I'm 50, not 50-something!). But it wasn't so much the fact of the birthday that made me feel old - it was the celebration.
Between starting his summer job and exhaustion from the end of the school year, David was too wiped out to plan anything but let me know he'd be okay with it if I took over (by saying discreetly, "Mom, just in case you feel like giving me a surprise party, I wouldn't mind, and Danielle might know who I would want to invite, because you know my guy friends are clueless about this sort of thing.") So with the help of his friend, Facebook, and a quick trip to Costco, I was ready for our house to be invaded by teenagers.
It all worked perfectly - Husband 2.0 got David out the door for a driving lesson, his friends showed up on time to help me frantically set the party up (getting 24 helium balloons out of my car, where I'd hidden everything), and he was suitably surprised (yelling something unprintable). I was definitely in the thick of things, supervising the set up, telling kids where to put their coats, suggesting good hiding places, but once the party got started, I realized that despite my internal sense of youth, I was not a peer, I was merely the party planner/caterer/maid. The kids thanked me for the sodas I distributed and the pizzas I cooked, a few even politely asked where to put recyclables, but that was it.
At least I was used to being a wallflower as a teenager, so that sense of being ignored was familiar. For husband 2.0, it was an unpleasantly novel experience. He'd been one of those popular kids in high school who wouldn't have deigned to socialize with a geeky nerd like I'd been (although the biger obstacle to our early romance might have been the fact that when I started high school, he was in first grade). So after he'd made a trip through the living room collecting used dishes, expecting to be fawned over like back in his glory days, he came back crestfallen. "When did I become invisible?" I reassured him that I still thought he was fascinating and the girls who ignored him had no taste . . . .
As I refreshed platters, cleared garbage, and tried to keep the 12-year-old little brother from being too much of a pest, I felt a weird sense of being a housewife from a 50s sitcom, like June Cleaver chaperoning one of Ward's parties and reminding Beaver not to annoy his brother's friends. (At least under my apron I had on cute jeans and platform wedges, instead of a starched shirtdress & pearls.) Sure, in many ways we've changed as parents (I listen to my kids, I never say "Wait til your father gets home", and I don't roll my eyes at their taste in music, since they like what I like), but on a basic level some things never change. Teenagers have always ignored parents at parties, little brothers have always been moderately annoying, and adults have always felt weird about getting older.
I went to wake David up the next morning and looked at his long leg sticking out of the covers, thinking, "Wow, that tall hairy man was once my baby", I realized June Cleaver, my own mom, and generations before them have had the same feeling - and it was actually comforting to realize I was a cliche, sometimes. Then I touched up my gray roots, put on some Lynyrd Skynyrd, and washed the rest of the party dishes.