"I'll swim when I'm 5."
― Jamie Hinkle
Jamie Hinkle is my granddaughter, and when she was a toddler, she sat on the steps of her family's swimming pool, enjoying the water, but refusing to swim. She refused lessons. She explained, confidently, "I'll swim when I'm 5." When she turned 5, she walked to the deep end, jumped in and swam. I always loved her clarity about when she'd be ready.
In some cases, the decision is made for us: when we're old enough to go to school, and old enough not to go to school. Old enough to be a senior citizen, get Medicare. When we're 16, we are old enough to drive a car, but when are we too old? Who decides? When are we old enough to make up our own mind? Is there a time when we're too old to make up our own mind?
My 5 year old granddaughter Fianna invited me to her Bounce U birthday party, with the sad comment, "I think you're too old to play at Bounce U." I objected a bit - couldn't I jump on a trampoline? She looked skeptical. However, on the day of the party, after playing with her friends, she came over to me, took my hand, and said sweetly, "I think you can do the trampoline...I'll help you." I had a great time jumping! Later I was staring at the huge inflated slide. She encouraged me to climb up, and I said, "I'm too scared, and I think I'm too old." This adorable child, who had felt too little and scared about five minutes earlier, took my hand again, and said, "Don't worry, I'll help you." And we took a few ecstatic trips up and down the slide. When are we too young to help? When are we too old?
I decided this summer I am too old to ride a bike. It is a loss, because riding my bike was such a pleasure. But two good friends and my late husband broke bones in falls from bikes, and my very young Primary Care Physician was found unconscious on the side of a road having fallen from his bike in some way he can't remember. He's okay now, but the concussion kept him off work for several months. I don't want to risk it here in my eighth decade. There's too much I still want to do.
For example, I'm going on a walking trip to Bali with my daughter Lisa in a couple of weeks. I'm so excited! She found a site called StopJetLag.com, where you give them your travel itinerary and they design a program to prevent jetlag. I was shocked to get my report back....it showed the trip from my house to Bali, including layovers, takes 40 hours! Outloud I said, "Am I too old for this?" Their suggestions include what to eat when, when to sleep, use of face mask and ear plugs, bright light sometimes, dim light others, etc. etc. I'm hoping it works!
I like what Dani Borelli said about aging, Old enough to know better. Young enough not to care. Experienced enough to do it right. That's what I'm hoping to do on my long trip to Bali.
Maybe the focus on age is all wrong. I know very grown up 5-year-olds; I know people in their 80s who seem young and people in their 50s who seem old. (Check out www.growingbolder.com.)
Maybe we need to ask different questions. I've thought of a few. Maybe you can add more.COACHING QUESTIONS
- Am I wise enough to know when pushing the limits is too risky?
- Am I open enough to ask for help?
- Am I lively enough to enjoy dancing/being silly?
- Am I courageous enough to help others no matter how I'm feeling?
- Am I creative enough to find meaning and ways to contribute every day?
- When will I mature into my best self?