"Parenting — Julie Levine" graphic

Focusing on the things that matter as I hit the big 5-0

When the kids were babies, I was often sleep deprived. I felt fuzzy a lot. My brain felt like it was half-working. I was desperate for sleep and clarity.

I’d become forgetful. I’d leave my phone on top of the car and then drive away. I was always losing my prescription glasses. I couldn’t remember where I had been, so I couldn’t retrace my steps. Thankfully I never forgot one of the kids (OK, maybe there was that one time).

Sophie was a colicky baby. A few times, in the middle of the night during a bad crying spell, I put her in the infant car seat and hoisted her on top of the clothes dryer while it was running. A couple of times, I turned on the hair dryer and blew it near her. I read in some parenting book that white noise helps soothe and calm crying babies. Neither of these methods worked. (Ultimately, it was me that needed the soothing and calming.)

Samuel had an early respiratory virus that left him coughing and wheezing at night, and later on he developed itchy rashes that kept him up. He outgrew the cough and the rashes, and eventually found his way to sleep through the night.

Then all of the sudden babies became busy toddlers. I could never keep up with everything, and somehow I could never keep it all together. Showering, running errands, making dinner … daily uneventful routine stuff suddenly became huge hurdles to get through.

Some days I managed things quite well. I’d be out and about, two happy toddlers in tow, and me, finally back into pre-pregnancy jeans feeling good. And then one of the kids would invariably have a “blowout” — maybe on me or in their car seat or at a cafe in the middle of my lunch.

I’m no longer pushing strollers, nor do I need to worry about things like blowouts. I go to sleep before the kids, knowing eventually when the homework is done and when they are tired they will find their way to sleep. I’m clear, focused and more present now than I think I’ve ever been.

I’ll turn 50 this year. After raising kids that are now more or less independent, I should, I think, finally carve out some more me time.

I’ll turn 50 this year … I should take the time to moisturize.

I should take the time to moisturize. Cover the streaks of grey in my hair every four weeks when they first appear instead of waiting six weeks. I should finally stop picking at my nails, a bad habit I started when I was a teenager. It’s time to stop wearing socks with holes in them and time to retire my favorite jeans, also with holes. (No, I didn’t buy them that way; I’ve just had them a really long time!) And maybe I should take the time to start putting on a little anti-aging eye cream before going to bed.

But I don’t want to do any of it. My hands are dry and imperfect from years of cooking, washing dishes, washing babies, dressing fussy toddlers, building sand castles and carving pumpkins — and that’s how I like it.

All I want to do for my big birthday year is to spend less time on myself and more time with my kids while they are still under our roof.

And whatever time is left after that, I want to do my small minuscule part to help make the world a peaceful, more kind, more welcoming and safe place. Every week, there’s another story about a swastika being painted somewhere, another bomb threat at a JCC. The recent travel ban barring Muslims sets my heart racing. I’m aching inside.

The Jewish values I’ve tried to teach the kids are front and center like never before. I want to protect women’s rights, polar bears, park rangers and voting rights. The list is long. Longer than I can write here. The socks can wait.

“If you’re not happy with something, lace up your shoes and get out there and do something,” President Barack Obama said in his farewell address.

With a clear head, and a full night’s sleep, I’ll be lacing up my shoes. I’ll roll up my sleeves and get out and do something, my part, in my little corner of the world. And just maybe I can still find the time to put on a little anti-aging cream, too.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.