We are about to get better acquainted. At least, you will know me better. Please give me the same privilege. Leave a comment telling me one or more ways that you have improved as you age. This post was inspired by a challenge from The Practical Dilettante, and it is supposed to be a list of 14 ways that I am better now that I am of a certain age. I found that 10 ways made for a long enough post.

—  I am much less gullible now than I was at 20, or even 30. Seriously, I used to believe anything and pay full price. I prefer to think of it as extreme optimism. I still have a sunny outlook, but I’m much better at protecting myself now. I’m thinking of two aspects: financial and interpersonal. Financially, I am much savvier. This came about the hard way: relative poverty. I have to look for a deal, or not buy.

I am still something of a sucker when it comes to people. I still fall for the nice act that people put on. You know who I’m talking about: the ‘salesman’ mom at group events. Your salesman might work with you, or go to your church. She acts like she wants to be friends, kind of romances you in a platonic way, and then ignores you when you no longer serve a purpose. WTF, right? This person is dangerous, making me afraid of befriending others. You should not have to be cautious in this arena; an open heart is so much better. My salesman-radar is apparently permanently fucked.

—  I am a better cook. There was a time when entire meals had to be thrown out. My husband actually told guests once, “Just don’t eat the soup.” Whatever, it’s all good now.

—  I am more understanding of people’s failings. Most of us are just doing our best. The definition of ‘best’ varies widely, I’ve found. I try to keep this in mind when I think someone is bat-shit crazy.

—  I am a better parent. More patient, more available, less selfish. Every moment counts. Is it a moment that helps your child be a better person, or is it a moment that makes your child feel small?

This isn’t to say that I didn’t believe that I was a superior parent (meaning superior to you, and others) when I was younger. I researched child development and parenting techniques. But good parenting is so much more than the sum of techniques. It is not when you read Dr. Seuss instead of watching Dora the Explorer. It is not when you ban sugar and cut up apples for snack. It is when you consider your kids as individuals, and put their needs first. Mostly what they need is love and attention.

—  I appreciate convention. I have always eschewed conventions like marriage, religious participation, funeral-going, baby showers, etc. as, well, stupid. Unnecessary. Pointless. Now, I see these things as a framework for our lives. They are a way of belonging to a community. Not necessary, but a way to commemorate and celebrate the important parts of our lives.

—  I need less stuff. I have rid myself of the insatiable want for things. Not sure how this happened, but I am glad.

—  I am a better driver.

—  I am more focused. I still start projects and then not work on them for months at a time. (Sorry, darling husband.) But I am much better at deciding what is important and pruning away the other stuff.

—  I do not feel the need to obliterate bad feelings with food or alcohol. I just deal.

—  My values have shifted: Nice is better than smart. I still value education. I hope my kids find and pursue a passion, including going to college. But I would be equally happy for them if they decided to be laborers. Physical labor is far under-rated in our society. We really are snobs.

Our family business is roofing and siding. These jobs are dangerous and require a specific skill set. Most laborers fail quickly, not used to the physical demands. When I helped out on an insulation job last fall, the customer, a retired woman about 65-years-old, asked me, “How can you stand to do this kind of work?” She asked with such disgust! I would much rather work outdoors, with my husband, than be shut up in a building any day. I felt like I was wilting every time I punched in at my last job.

Thanks, Seonaid, for the challenge. And thanks to all of you still reading. Keeping this blog is very fulfilling, and keeping up with other bloggers is more inspiring than I could have imagined.