When I was a child my parents lived by the adage: children are to be seen, not heard and that other one, children speak only when spoken to. Though I may have had thoughts, questions, comments, theories, ideas, advice, stories, jokes, insights, musings, songs, confusion, I kept them to myself. Well, at least I tried. When my mom would bump into a neighbor at the grocery store and talk about how the mailman was delivering the wrong letters to the wrong houses I was itching to tell them what I saw he carried around in his mail bag and dipped into every few houses, but I held my tongue. When my mom served dinner and the vegetable du jour was lima beans−which made the acids in my stomach so turbulent even the Titanic would have steered clear, I would close my eyes, open my mouth and insert those beans one at a time with a long swallow of milk, gulping them down without ever letting them touch my taste buds. Never would I have dreamed of sharing aloud my real thoughts on lima beans. Nor would I have refused to eat them, lest I’d hear about the starving children in India whom my mom talked about more frequently than family.
As young children, my brothers and I would quickly relinquish the small black and white television when my dad came home from work. Dad got the best chair and his pick of the channels. His arrival home would determine what time we ate dinner and he, the breadwinner, always got the best part of the steak−the sliver of meat that ran along the bone. The kids got the well-done ends. I had no idea what the best part tasted like but my eyes would widen and my mouth would juice up when my mother passed the dinner plate under my nose across the table to my father’s outstretched hands.
By the time I was in my teens, I became obsessed with a single thought: just wait till I’m an adult. I would ponder how scrumptious it must be to rule the roost. I couldn’t wait to be an adult to eat the best part of the steak.
Fast forward twenty-five years. You could probably imagine my shock and dismay to discover that being a parent in the 21 century isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Like when my daughter was old enough to start eating real food, my husband cut her steak into tiny pieces and passed it under my nose across the table to her outstretched hands. “Here you go sweetie,” he said, “the best part of the steak, it’s nice and tender.” What?!? Huh? The best part of the steak for a three year old?!? I was waiting twenty-five years for that bite! Nor was I prepared for my toddlers refusal to eat anything I cooked unless it came out of a purple and yellow box with a bunny on it. I got arms pretzel-locked across the chest for merely suggesting carrots. There were nights when all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch a good movie, but my husband would glare at me for even contemplating switching off The Muppets Christmas, often our kids’ only sleep elixir. Try to have an adult conversation out on your front lawn with the neighbors without someone’s kid barrelling up and interrupting because they can’t find their soccer cleats, or they need a ride somewhere, or five dollars for the ice cream truck. Even if there were no kids in sight, adult conversations are inevitably about them, their sports, their grades, their activities.
How did this happen? How did it happen that when I was a kid, adults ruled, and now that I’m an adult, kids rule?
Is it possible that people of my generation will be victims of ageism at all our life stages? Call me naïve, but I’m holding out hope. It’s still possible that when I’m a senior, seniors will rule.
I just pray I’ll still have my teeth for when I get the good part of the steak.
Or try this Garlicky, Smoky Grilled London Broil with Chipotle Chile and every bite will be tender like butta’.
Have you ever felt you were the right age at the wrong time?