Just Fine with Turning Forty
Today is my fortieth birthday. I’ve heard lots of jokes about old age this month. My nine-year-old said he hopes someday to live as long as me. My ten-year-old was floored when he realized that he was the only kid who knew me in my twenties (I was 29 when he was born), which means that he’ll have known me for THREE DECADES. Whoa, mind blown. My husband kissed me last night and said, “Man. That’s the last time I’ll kiss a 30-something!”
But my six-year-old daughter’s remark was the one that hit home. When I joked over dinner that I planned to just skip Wednesday this week so I’ll never turn 40, she got sincerely upset. “But Mommy, you HAVE to have your birthday! Birthdays are FUN!!” And she’s right. Birthdays ARE fun.
Birthdays are a celebration of life, of identity. I have lived for four decades. I’m proud of the experiences I’ve lived and the lessons they’ve taught me. No more moping about getting older. It’s time to embrace this milestone. As I look back on the years behind me, I’m honestly psyched for what lies ahead.
In that first decade, the baby years, it’s all about learning the rules of life. How to walk, talk, eat, dress, learn, and interact with the world. But it’s a safe place, surrounded by family and caregivers.
In our second decade, the teen years, it’s all about testing the rules we learned during the first ten years. Our friendships mean everything to us. Sometimes they break our hearts and hurt our feelings, but those first ties outside of the bloodline help us decide who we want to be. We push boundaries, gaining independence and stretching those apron strings until they snap so we can take off on our own.
In our third decade, our twenties, it’s about paving our path. We are fearless. We are strong. We are SO READY for this life. Friends are in abundance. Romance blooms everywhere. Our bodies are in prime, gorgeous condition, and our minds carry enough experience and knowledge to instill confidence at every turn. Bring it on!
Then our fourth decade, our thirties, hits and smacks us in the face, teaching us that once again, we know nothing. Marriage and parenthood turn the world upside-down. It goes from being to all about me, to being all about someone else, everyone else. In my thirties I realized that, at least for a few years, I had to come last. That lesson is a necessary one for maturity and growth, but it shook me to my core. I struggled with both identity issues and postpartum depression. I was no longer working, so what WAS I? How did I define myself? Would the title of “Mom” be enough? It was a rough ride.
But through that struggle over myself, I was gifted with meeting my three favorite people on earth. My kids. Yet as a result of meeting these great kids, my marriage was tested in my thirties. We were both initiated into the parenthood club full force. We had to figure out our new roles as parents while still being there for each other. There were many times in the last ten years that I failed on that one. I was so busy taking care of my kids that I was no longer taking care of my husband, yet I had an unjust sense of resentment that he wasn’t taking care of me.
It was hard. We yelled and fought and ignored each other in turns. But now that our kids are all in school and needing us just a little bit less, we are able to find each other a little more. In addition, we lean on our friends more, too. We learn that friendships matter just as much or more than they did in our teens. Unfortunately, we still feel the sting of betrayal from friends, too, even in this stage of life.
Now, as I face forty, I realize that I have the power to choose which friendships to nurture and which to let go. I also know that my marriage has survived babies and is stronger for it. I love being on this team of husband and wife and am glad for the chance to reconnect.
Similarly, as I enter my fifth decade, I realize that who I am is more than what I do. I no longer seek to find a single label for myself. I’m a mom. I’m a writer. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I’m a friend. I’m a teacher. I’m a volunteer. I am all of these things. I am loyal. I am smart. I am still beautiful, despite the extra padding. Perhaps just beautiful in a different way. Yet I am loved. So, so much.
How lucky I am to be turning forty today. Bring on the next chapter. I’m ready!