“Your hair is missing color!” My soon-to-be 5-year-old son blurted out, during one of his pretend play bouts as a hairdresser.
“Say that again?” I don’t quite get it. “Your hair is missing color.” He repeats then elaborates, “It’s not black anymore.”
Moments later it clicks. He is talking about the single conspicuous gray hair on my scalp! “It’s only one hair. Let it be.” I try to ease his concern. A single gray hair had been my frenemy since my late 20s. I plucked it, snipped it, and colored it sporadically since my 28th birthday. However, despite my efforts, it adamantly reappeared to remind me of my fast approaching mid-life.
I fought it bravely for as long as I could. Eventually, I made peace with the fact that it was here to stay, so I welcomed it to my “okay-ish” head of hair and let it mar the remainder of whatever was left of my youth with its presence. “But it’s not one hair.” My son reiterates, more concerned than ever.
“You have lots of hair missing color!” It was as if one of his favorite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes has come to life and the world was slowly turning colorless. “Technically, it’s the color white,” I want to correct him, but this is secondary to the general import of his statement.
I run to the mirror.
Indeed, to my horror, I have a bunch – more like a few bunches – of grays hiding underneath a flimsy layer of black. When did my hair go from a single gray hair to this? Where was I when this rapid progression was taking place? An answer was already forming in my head long before I was done asking all the questions.
I was busy parenting.
I was busy raising a child who could not wait to come into this world, arriving a month before his time, tiny and fragile beyond belief. The silver lining? I learned how to hold a newborn without needing to think twice.
I was busy one whole month struggling to master the fine art of nursing, barely succeeding in keeping our baby hanging onto the lowest rungs of the growth charts. The silver lining? We (our son and I) eventually mastered nursing and carried on a successful “extended” breastfeeding relationship till he was done for good 2.5 years later.
For the next five months, I was busy being a sleep-deprived zombie on auto-pilot. The silver lining? We (my husband and I) finally learned the fine art of power naps.
For the next five months, I was busy shifting our home and settling in a new environment. The silver lining? I learned the value of home-cooked meals and clutter-free living.
For the next month, I was busy planning and executing the perfect first birthday party for our son – an event which he has no memory of. The silver lining? I gained expertise in large-scale, kid-friendly event management.
For the next six months, I was busy child-proofing our home and constantly supervising our active toddler who still managed to get in trouble. I found an occasional minute or two to wonder about my forgotten career and future plans too, now that my yearlong hiatus from work was coming to a close. The silver lining? I understood and appreciated the pain and struggle that every mom faces when going back to work.
The next twelve months went in a blur after I went back work. Amidst day care drop-offs filled with tears, numerous childhood afflictions threatening to kill my reputation as a dependable corporate worker, not to mention the constant hurry to get back home on time EVERY SINGLE DAY, I lost steam somewhere down the road. The silver lining? I realized that there were more important things in life than a successful career.
For the next six months, I was busy balancing a jam-packed work-from-home schedule. I was not ready to give up on my good old career yet without ticking off all the option boxes. What if this struggle was a passing phase more than anything else? My son was thriving but I was fatigued way past acceptable limits. The silver lining? I understood Oprah’s famous statement “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” I realized I was juggling way too many balls. I decided to drop the career ball.
For the next twelve months, I was busy fighting off feelings of worthlessness as a stay-at-home mom. Amidst feeding, cleaning, playing, reading, kissing boo-boos, cooking and what not, there were definitely some breathing spaces. But those were few and far between and mostly spent on trying to build a part-time blogging career. The silver lining? I learned to appreciate the big picture. I saw my years of training as a software architect, not as a wasted skill, rather, as a starting point to a new career converging with my love for reading and writing.
This brings me to the fifth year. It had been five years since I last checked on my graying hair.
This year has been kind. The identity crisis is long gone. The breathing spaces are a regular feature of my days. I have time to finally look in the mirror again and see myself as an individual separate from my son’s errand runner. His budding independence has ensured me that freedom. I am able to look past my career identity and see myself for who I really am. My non-paying job is the most satisfying work I have done in my whole life.
“Do you see? Do you see it in the mirror?” My son wants to know, pulling me out of my reverie back into the moment. I look in the mirror again and an older woman with graying hair and sleep-deprived eyes looks back at me. “Oh my, you are right! My hair is missing color. I will fix it, I promise.” I reply, eyeing the hair color abandoned forever at my dressing table. It’s expired by now. It’s time to buy a new one.
It’s finally time to focus on ME. I may not be able to turn back the tide of time but I can slow it down. But then I look at the clock and look at my tired eyes once again and say “What the heck! Let’s go, take a nap instead.”
It’s a lazy summer afternoon, after all. He agrees, contrary to his usual nap-hating self. “We will ‘paint’ my hair tomorrow,” I add. We can always get back to my hair with “no color”. It’s not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon, I hope. There will still be ample time to check off things from my TO DO lists and look picture-perfect when the nap is done.
How do I know this? Because the silver lining to graying hair and growing old in a parenting daze is patience. Don’t believe me? Try spilling milk on the floor or breaking my favorite vase. I promise I will count to ten before hitting the roof.
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This post was written by Daisy Suman exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.