One night recently at dinner, my husband and I were whining about our various complaints of middle age – poor sleep, aching backs, thinning hair, and blah, blah, blah. One of our lovely daughters looked at the other and remarked that she could see nothing positive about getting old, and the other, of course, concurred. I looked at both of them and laughed. “Oh, my dears,” said I, “I might complain all day about the downsides of advancing age, but I would never trade my fifty-odd years for your unblemished youth.” They both begged me to explain what was possibly good about getting old. Other than the obvious — having a lot more money — I assured them that the one big bonus to having lived a long life is: wisdom.
Yes, wisdom. They shook their heads with disbelief, which is not surprising, since most young people are quite certain that older people, particularly their parents, are sorely lacking in this ephemeral quality, and this shows us only that they lack an understanding of what it is. And I found myself lacking the words to express and explain it. The best I could come up with is that wisdom is the accumulated knowledge of life experiences that engenders patience and peace. This accumulated knowledge is less about grand, sweeping world events or book-learned facts and figures, and more about those little day-to-day experiences that teach us that this, too, shall pass; that the worst day of your life still beats the alternative; that when God closes a door, he always opens a window; and that the best things in life are indeed free. That kind of wisdom.
I knew my speech was falling on deaf ears, and I was okay with that, because, of course, my children lack the wisdom to know their mom is right :). But then today, I stumbled on an interesting article in Business Insider, “The Best Age for Everything.” For example, it tells us that the best age for learning a foreign language is seven or eight. I believe it. The article further claims that I was at my peak attractiveness to men at 23, so maybe it’s not perfect in its predictions, given that I was “between boyfriends” at the time, but nevertheless, I found its assertions believable, and my earlier theory about wisdom vindicated. In fact, the article declares that “people really do get wiser as they get older.” This was gleaned from a study wherein a team of psychologists looked at responses to a proposed conflict situation and how it might be resolved:
The scientists analyzed the responses for characteristics like being able to see from someone else’s point of view, anticipating change, considering multiple possible turnouts, acknowledging uncertainty, and searching for compromise. They found that the oldest group they studied — people who were between 60 and 90 — did better than other ages on almost every count.
So there, kids, Mommy was right once again. Science backs me up: wisdom is a real thing, and I’ve got it, and I’m only going to have more as I age. Plus, according to the article, my vocabulary won’t yet peak until I’m about 70, so I’ll continue to confuse you with big words, and on top of that, it claims I’ll have learned to love my body by then, too. Wow, lots to look forward to.
Old folks, rock on.