In the scheme of things it’s not really shocking that my daughter is about to turn 40. After all, any sixty-something who had a baby in his or her twenties now has an adult child who has hit, or is about to hit, this milestone birthday.
I’m proud that my attractive daughter is well-launched on her career path, recently completing her Ph.D., has a happy marriage, and two bright little boys. She’s looking to her 40th birthday with aplomb. She may have a few silver “sparklers” in her long, dark-brown hair and a few tiny lines around her eyes but she runs 3 to 5 miles most days and has more energy than I ever did.
But as her birthday approaches, I’m the one feeling very unsettled. What’s going on? It sort of feels as if my daughter’s fortieth birthday is also about me, what I’ve lost and gained. This noteworthy birthday reminds me of all the years of my life that have zoomed by since she was laid, red-faced and squirming, in my unpracticed arms. It underscores my shifting role of young mom to grand-mom. It confirms the reality that, not only am I no longer a young woman, I can’t even claim to be middle aged any more!
But, it has been such a privilege to accompany my daughter on her life journey, from newborn baby to creative child, from intense teenager to social-butterfly college student, from capable career woman to wife, mother, and, now, professor. To see her life unfold over these four decades has given me such extraordinary pleasure and pride. I am so, so grateful to be able to bear witness to her progress and development over the past forty years!
And, in a real sense, my daughter’s birthday is about me. Her birth and growing-up fostered my own personal journey. Who I am today was honed by forty years of trial-and-error parenting. My daughter needed a mom who was an advocate: strong, dependable, compassionate, knowledgeable, reliable, resourceful, and good company! And so I tried to become those things…..for her and, eventually, for myself and others.
The parenting lit talks about giving your child “roots and wings.” There should also be some mention of the fact that your child can inspire you grow your own “roots and wings.”
So I will mark the occasion with words and gifts to recognize and celebrate my daughter’s very special, very significant birthday. I wish I could physically be there with her!
And on July 16 at 2:27 pm, I will sit by myself, pour a glass of wine, sip it slowly, and recall the most signal event of my entire life.
The heat was intense that day. The song that played on the radio as we drove to the hospital was “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.” The Watergate Hearings droned on the TV in the labor room. Labor was early, quick and painful. I was beyond terrified. They put you in my arms. I had never even held an infant before. But there you were. And so my transformation began.