My birthday and my eldest daughter’s birthday are 23 days apart. As a result, I am reminded of my birthday sooner than I would like, since she eagerly plans ahead for her own birthday at least two months in advance.
As my birthday comes first, she and my other daughter “cryptically” asked me what my favorite breakfast in bed would be, and if I had to choose a “fun” place to eat dinner, where would it be? They were planning my birthday too, whether I liked it or not.
One night, a little while back, my daughter came to my room with a list of friends she wanted to invite to her party, and she already thought about what she would wear to school that day. On that night, she looked at me and asked, “Mommy, I am very excited to turn 8. Aren’t you excited to turn another year older too?” I looked at her in absolute envy, wishing I was as excited about turning my almost new age as she was about turning hers. She even had a calendar in the kitchen that she used as a birthday countdown, crossing out each passing day until the big day arrived.
Why is it that as we get older, the thought of an impending birthday gives us the blues? Why don’t we have that feeling of excitement like we did when we were kids?
I guess that as each new year approaches, we reflect upon the past year and think of the things that we should have accomplished, or the person we should have become at this point in our lives. Maybe another birthday is a reminder that we are further from days when we were young carefree, and a year closer to older age and the stress of the unknown. Maybe it’s the realization that all of our friends and family are getting older too. Maybe we dread our birthday, because our reflection in the mirror continues to change, reminding us that we are no longer young or as beautiful as we once felt.
Instead of answering my daughter back, I asked her why she so excited to turn 8. Of course, it goes without saying that presents and birthday cake topped the list—closely following presents and cake was that she couldn’t wait to share this special time with all of her family and friends.
And in addition, she said, she was a year closer to being an adult, and that made her happy. I asked why she wanted to be an adult so badly. First, she said, that meant she was getting closer to getting a cell phone and being able to babysit her little sister. But also, that she learned many things last year when she was in first grade, and that she couldn’t wait to learn even more this year in second grade. And the year after that, she would learn even more and so forth. When she is an adult, she said, she will have learned “close to everything.”
I am usually the one teaching my daughter life’s lessons, but on this particular night, my almost-8-year-old had taught me.
Maybe instead of dwelling on what we could have done, or putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves as to where we should be at this point in our lives, maybe we are exactly where we are supposed to be in our journey. Maybe it’s about being present in this moment and realizing all that we did accomplish and learn this past year.
Maybe we are not young and carefree, but perhaps we have taken the best part of our youth with us and can be seen in the faces of family and true friends that we are blessed to still have after so many years. We are getting older and unfortunately, our reflection will change. That’s just what time does. But maybe each new wrinkle and gray hair (at least before it gets colored), brings new wisdom and confidence that we did not possess the year before.
The frailty of life is bestowed upon all of us. Every year, we are fortunate to have a birthday is our ultimate present from God. It is another year that we are alive on this earth, and another year to grow and be with the people we love.
I hope to remind myself of the above every year as my birthday approaches.
And so, as my birthday crept closer, I happily helped plan my festivities and even crossed off the days on the calendar alongside my daughter. And when my big day finally arrived, I partied like a carefree 8-year-old.