Fountain of Youth in the Back Seat | Mark’s Remarks

Four years ago, Michelle and I were in our early 40s. I was crowding my mid-40s, but she had just started hers.

When we told people we were having another baby, most were shocked or surprised. Some were appalled.

One person, for whom tact has never been a strong point, ran into me after not seeing me for several years. After the usual pleasantries were exchanged, this person looked me square in the eye and said, “I heard you had another baby. Are you crazy?” I didn’t take it as a slam, but it probably was knowing that person.

When I tell people our last kiddo was planned, many of them look at us with a look of disbelief. Their looks question every other factor of our lives: our income, our other children, our way of life. Surely this child wasn’t planned. Yep, she sure was.

I will tell you right now having a small child around as you are simultaneously taking the course Middle Age 101 isn’t for sissies.

Michelle didn’t have an easy pregnancy with either of the girls. One night, with spring in the air but knowing the baby wasn’t due until July, Michelle and I plopped down on the bed and just stayed put, weary from a long day. I’m thinking it was around 4:30 p.m. We resembled comatose patients.

Our older daughter came in and asked us what we were doing. Perhaps she thought we were dead.  “We are pretending we aren’t old,” I said to her. I turned to Michelle and said “You do realize that we are going to have an infant in a couple of months?” We both busted out laughing. Tired we both were, but happy with anticipation knowing we’d muster the strength somewhere.

So, on we went. The trip to the hospital and the birth itself, despite the usual bits of drama, were old hat to us. Been there, done that. Being at the hospital with all the nurses waiting on you hand and foot is just the best. And boy, you can bet we did not feel guilty that Mira spent a couple of nights in the nursery. No guilt at all. After all, this would be the last chance for Michelle. Store up your sleep points while you have the chance.

I’m telling you all this stuff and strolling down memory lane because I was asked yesterday if I would recommend having children at this later stage in one’s life. Although I would certainly advise people not to be impetuous and to seek God’s wisdom first, I would almost always say “Yes. Do it.”

What are the drawbacks? I wouldn’t call them drawbacks at all. Yes, you are not as spry as you once were. Yes, you no longer stay up past their bedtime; their bedtime is your bedtime. In fact, we take turns putting her to bed while the other one gets in bed. Before long, the house is quiet. A quiet, dark house at 9 p.m. is not uncommon at our house. Gone are the days we’d put the kids to bed and stay up a few more hours to get chores finished or watch TV. Heck, we even used to order pizza once in a while.

What are the perks? There are too many to list. Joy is in your life every day, with all your kids. Having a little one around just adds to that. Exuberance, innocence and irrelevant discussions. This keeps you young, I am convinced.

There’s nothing I love better than leaving a stressful situation or a long day at work behind and going somewhere with the baby in the back seat. I have picked her up after school to run errands. She is always ready to go for a ride. The conversations begin as soon as the car leaves the driveway. Glances in the rearview mirror show a face full of wonder. You can see the wheels turn as she peers out the van window.

Yesterday, we left church with Sunday school papers in hand, practically skipping to the car. Not a care or worry. A satisfied smile on her face and a chatterbox full of stories and reports.

“Dad, did you know that Brea is 5?” This was the top story of the day. Knowing that one of her best friends from church was already at this significant age simply floored her.  I mean, think of all the things a 5-year-old can do! Imagine being 5 instead of 4!

I smile a little at her amazement. What’s the big deal? It IS a big deal, and hearing her little conversations are meaningful to me too. I begin to remember what it was like to have such little things mean so much.  Brea is 5.

That’s amazing. Yes, it is.

After a while, you can get lost in the world of a 4 year-old, marveling at things like bugs and birthdays and funny looking clouds.

And really, it’s a wonderful place to be.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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