My birthday was this past weekend (presents are still being accepted!) and I turned 51! Over half a century old, yet sometimes I feel so much younger. Of course, I also feel older at times as well!
Why is it when you’re younger, age and birthdays take on such a significance? When my son was born, I kept track of his age by days. “He’s 10 days old now! Yea!!” Then you go to months…even AFTER a year has gone by. Instead of saying a toddler is 1 ½ years old, we say, “My son is 18 months!”
Is it because 18 months sounds ‘older’ than a year…and we are so excited about seeing what’s next in our kids’ lives we try to speed up the process? I learned, as most parents of adult children do, that our kids’ childhoods go by in a flash! The days might go slowly…there were days in my life with my son that seemed to go on forever like when he was sick…but the years just flew by. It’s like I blinked, and he was all grown up! What I wouldn’t give to go back and enjoy those LONG days again!!
After celebrating our age so much, why do we begin to ‘fib’ about it as we get older? Once we hit late 20‘s early 30’s, we start (hopefully jokingly) saying how old we are getting. And by the time we’re close to 40, the fibs might begin! And if not the ‘fibs’ (e.g. I’m…ummmm…35-ish), then the race to beat the youth clock is in full swing. Think about it…what product is sold for women that DOESN’T promise it will make you look younger?? Hmmmmm…
Anyhoo, when I was a kid, I absolutely adored my birthdays! After I’d get up in the mornings and was getting ready for school, my dad would always call me from work which was so special to me. To talk on the phone with dad, during work hours, told me how special my birthday was. Then, my mom would come to my classroom (in elementary school) that afternoon with cupcakes and kool-aid. The teacher would call me up to the front of the class and everyone would sing happy birthday to me and I’d pass out my goodies! Later that evening, I’d get to pick any dinner I wanted mom to cook, and I always chose the same thing…Kraft mac-n-cheese and green beans! In fact, that’s still my go to comfort meal to this day. Then, my grandparents would come over for cake and presents! And I’m going to be honest here, I LOVE presents!! Love them!! I love getting them and I love giving them! Actually, the most difficult time of the holiday season for me is trying to keep secret what I have bought everyone! And, my sister is just as bad; actually, it must be genetic because my son has developed that tendency too!
I’ll never forget my son’s first birthday. Hubby and I rented a couple of large tables and chairs and invited all of our friends and neighbors over. My baby’s eyes were like saucers when he realized this fuss was for him! I was hoping he’d take his first unassisted steps that day in front of everyone, but instead, he did it the very next day. Literally 12 hours later when it was only me to witness this monumental event. Figures.
Unfortunately, my son’s birthday is in the summer, so he never got to experience a class party. (However, I was always room-mom, and took care of all the holiday parties and was considered the ‘goodie bag’ queen by many). So, I’d have swim parties for him. We’d rent out the pool we used each summer and he and his friends would have a ball…swimming, eating, swimming again, experiencing stomach cramps, etc. It was fun! 😊 I still make a fuss over my son’s birthday, and for his 21st, my family and I gave him a surprise birthday party! We had planned it for months and he was so surprised and touched. Lots of his friends from high school were there and I made him a memory quilt…it has 20 fabrics in it, and each one represents something he loved as a kid like Pokemon, nature, the Simpsons, etc. He loved it!
Last year, my birthday completely sucked. It was really the beginning of the end of hubby 3 and I. I knew things were getting to the point where a decision needed to be made, and I knew he was pretty much checked out when he gave me his gift. Usually, he was awesome with presents. But last year, he got home late, handed me a Wal-Mart bag with a $5 reading light in it, and no card. That told me all I really needed to know and the rest of December went downhill. Actually, the rest of the next year went entirely downhill…fast.
This year, I spent some time with my mom and sister, and then spent the rest of the day by myself. I was feeling a bit lonely, but I wanted the time. Having my birthday again triggered so much of what went on this past year, and I started thinking about everything and tried to sort some things out. And I think I did. I saw the start of my horrible year, but also saw the lessons I learned from it, the strength I gained, and the growth I’ve experienced. I know this year was terrible, but I also know it wasn’t nearly as awful as it could have been, and probably won’t be the worse I’ll ever encounter. I saw the very worse in the face of my sister-in-law when my nephew died, and I know how lucky, truly blessed, I am for not having to experience that depth of grief. I’ve put a lot of things in perspective and have learned the most important lesson of all: to be grateful for what I have in the midst of anything else that might be happening. I have my son. I have my family. I have my dogs. I have my friends. I have my career. I have my students.
And I also have this: the understanding that I will NEVER hurt like I did last year again in terms of relationships. Never. I’ve ‘hardened’ my heart a bit. Not terribly hard…but hard enough so that it has much more protection than it’s ever had before. I’ve built some boundaries, learned some important red flags, and have forced myself to look at things a bit more objectively in my life. You know, it was a pretty good birthday after all.
Prof K ❤