I tend to be fine with the passing of my own birthday. I don’t get overly excited about the new year and the start of another school year is usually quite exciting. I love the snap of fall air and anticipation.
What gets me sentimental every time is the passing of another birthday for my kids. Both my children were born in the spring. Each spring as the earth renews (or, if you live in the Midwest, it snows), my children become another year old.
This, of course, is what we want. When we are dog-earing all those “what to expect” baby books, we dream of these days. We pray our children grow up healthy, happy and strong — and then they do.
Yesterday was GirlWonder’s birthday, and thanks to social media I had a front row seat to the many blessings and birthday wishes sent her way. Throughout the day she was given birthday wishes not only in person by her wonderful friends, but via U.S. mail (Hi Grandma!) and online.
Yesterday I received a gift on my daughter’s birthday too. Unbidden, more than one friend sent me sweet details of the ways they admired our daughter. I will treasure those always because as a parent it’s easy to see the good in our children, it is touching when someone else sees what we see.
I think it is so important these days to catch kids — teenagers especially – doing well. When they volunteer, stand up, stand out, or just take the time to be a friend, I think that bears noting.
It is so easy when they are small to applaud every detail of their accomplishments. The first step, the first smile, the smeary fingerpaints all garner applause. As they get older I think it is so important to catch teens “doing well” too. They need the hugs, smiles, pats on the back and big applause for other things. For trying their best, working hard, going back and doing it again, for thinking of others. Sometimes, just for being kind.
I do miss the younger days sometimes. I miss crayons and little white socks that roll at the ankle and pigtails that curl just so. I miss pink plaid skirts and finger paintings of blobs labeled “my mom.”
I miss elementary school and “mom I said you’d bake brownies for the class party … tomorrow.” I miss “I don’t like the costume I said I wanted. Now I want to be a cupcake for Halloween. Tomorrow.” I miss not being able to leave them alone for a minute, being able to carry them on my hip, and being able to hold them until they grew heavy in my arms with sweaty sleep.
Then again I remind myself that if they truly did stay little forever, I would miss all this too. I would miss the bonds of deep friendship — and the sublime moments when they withstand the tests that try us all. I would miss the first time they realize the freedom — and sting — of making their own “big decision.” The first dance, the first drive, the first crush and the first love.
I would, quite frankly, miss watching their accomplishments. There is a physical swelling of pride when your child does well. Academically, athletically, or perhaps most important — ethically. When friends write to say one of my children reached out, stood up, or was simply a good person when the moment required it — that means the world to me.
I know there will be missteps, disappointments and moments when we don’t rise above. I have to believe there will be laughter, smiles and forgiveness too.
On that note, I wanted to say thank you to all the family, friends and community members who took the time to share birthday wishes with our daughter and your feelings about her with us.
We truly believe “it takes a village,” and every one of the villagers, near and far, who have had an impact on our children’s lives and who they become — we love you and we thank you. We honestly could not do it without you and we thank the Lord every day for the blessing of these children — and all of you — in our lives.
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