Tag Archives: birthdays

I blinked.

Ready to test out her wings....in Mongolia!

Every new mama is warned at some point: Don’t blink, they’ll be grown before you know it.

I tried so hard not to blink. I had been warned. I tried so hard.

In the beginning, we napped together and I reveled in the days you nursed and I could do nothing else but rock and watch your tiny mouth suckle. But laundry soon beckoned and eventually you napped better in your crib than in my arms.

I blinked.

Solid foods came too soon, but we played as I spooned the pureed sweet potatoes and carrots (your favorites!) into your mouth. Once big enough to sit in your highchair, I could answer phone calls or check emails.

I blinked again.

You started with finger foods but soon you were feeding yourself, and there were manners to be taught, toys to be put away, and naptimes and bedtimes to be maintained. Even faster came the days of “Mom, can I borrow some money to meet a friend at Starbucks?”, “Eat without me, I’ll get something later,” and “I should be home by 11.”

I blinked, but failed to notice. Had it become easier?

School started, and even though your school days have been spent at home with me, pages of scribbles evolved into practice penmanship pages which gave way to a blur of research papers, math exams, and literature assignments that “just needed to get done.”  Your dolls and toys were boxed and your shelves now bulge with your beloved books. Leaving behind your Girl Scout years, you committed yourself to volunteering at the library you so love, the 4-H archery team, dreaming about your future, and meeting with college recruiters. Just yesterday, you were so small,  and now, with only 7 weeks before you graduate high school, your childhood years are shadowed by a fast approaching future.

Why, oh why, did I blink so often?

18 years ago, my first born was placed into my arms shortly after 2 in the afternoon and I looked into the eyes of the little one I already loved so deeply. She was perfection swaddled in a cotton blanket and topped with a striped beanie. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. After 23 hours of labor, I fought to keep my eyes open; I wanted to absorb every detail of her face, her toes, and those perfect little fingers that grasped my pinkie finger. I had never seen such beauty before. However, exhaustion is a powerful foe and with her tucked safely in my arms, I drifted off to sleep. It would be the first of many “blinks.”

A little over a year ago, I began writing this blog with the unavoidable awareness that I was beginning my journey towards the empty nest years. Though I’ve had my days of feeling that “it’s all happening too fast” over the last year, I’ve also come to realize that this journey actually began on the day she was born. All along the way, she and I have taken baby steps towards her independence, as well as my eventual independence. It’s what a mama is supposed to do: teach and train and coach and guide her baby bird to the edge of the nest so that both can take new flight when it’s time to leave the nest for good. Sometimes, between the blinks and the lessons in manners, and homework, and first jobs, and extra-curricular activities, etc. we forget to see our child, really see who they have become while we’ve been helping them prepare to take flight. We focus on the areas we fear they lack readiness and often fail to see all the ways in which they’ve already tested their wings.

My friend, Cindy Skerjanec, recently shared with me her story of sending her oldest off to college for the first time last year. I had asked about her “pre-flight” emotions and  fears. Yes, they were there, but there was also a sense of peace, she had said. Throughout her daughter’s senior year, she had stayed conscious of the fact it was their last year together at home, and together mother and daughter prepared for the next step. By the time the summer ended, Cindy knew her daughter was ready to fly, and she was ready to release her. It has been a smooth transition for both, in a large part because of their many conversations, their joint preparation, and Cindy’s awareness that this is what we, as mothers, are supposed to do; release.  Both mother and daughter knew they were ready for the next chapter, and both celebrated that transition when it arrived.

As I left the coffee shop, I wondered if I would feel that sense of peace when C walks across the stage on graduation day or packs up her bags when she transfers to the college of her choice in the next state. I tried to picture myself walking past her empty room. And then I remembered, I’d already done it. Last summer, I drove her to the airport early one morning; destination: Mongolia. I squeezed her tight before I said goodbye to her at the security gates, fighting back the tears that threatened to spill onto her shoulder. This was her time, and I wouldn’t spoil it with my tears. Our contact, I knew, would be limited at best until she touched down in the US again a month later. I returned to a home where the absence of her energy was palpable, but there was something else in the house, too. I could hear the echoes of her excitement and strength and joy from that morning and the days and weeks leading up to it. In her room, I found the paper remnants of her planning scattered upon her bed, next to the bear she has loved since she was only 3 months old. And, in that room, I found a peace that filled my entire being. I knew she was where she was supposed to be. She was ready to spread her wings and take a flight, and I was ready to release.

In the last 12 months, I have watched my once swaddled little bundle spread her wings in ways beyond my wildest imagination. In the last year, she has learned how to ask for and receive help and how to talk through her fears and defeat her demons. She has courageously accepted the diagnosis of an auto-immune disease and learned how to research, manage, and make her own healthcare decisions. She has pushed herself academically, applied for and was selected as a delegate for the State Department leadership development program in Mongolia, and in the process, she has begun to discover the women within. In the last year, I have seen glimpses of the girl I once rocked and nursed, but more often, I have witnessed the emergence of a strong, courageous, adventurous woman. And that has brought me immeasurable joy and peace.

18 years ago today, I welcomed C into this world, and I was warned not to blink; I would miss too much, it would all pass by too fast. And, though there are days I feel it has all passed by far too fast, I take comfort in the new relationship I am developing with the woman I am so very proud to call my daughter. I may have welcomed her into this world, but the truth is, she warmly welcomed me into hers.

I blinked, and she grew into an amazing woman.

Happy 18th birthday, dear C! May your journey always be blessed. I love you. ♥

It’s time to celebrate!

Birthdays were a big deal when I was growing up. So big, I remember often having 2 celebrations; 1 that was family only, and 1 with friends. My mom always saw to it that our birthdays were special. For each of her 9 children, she shopped for just the right gifts, prepared the menu of the birthday child’s exclusive choosing, and brought out a delicate little Merry-Go-Round cake topper/candle holder that actually turned. Somewhere in my pre-teens, when my dessert preference turned to tapioca pudding, the cake topper disappeared from the party. I wonder where that cake topper ever ended up. I loved it. It always said, “Celebration” to me.

This morning, I was struck with irony as I was digging through the corners of my mind. The last time I remember seeing that cake topper was somewhere around the age of 11 or 12. Granted, it wouldn’t stand up in a large bowl of pudding, but the timing of its disappearance seems symbolic nonetheless.

As I think is true for many girls, if not all, my teen years were far from easy.  I had acne. I struggled with my weight. Though my grades were decent, I felt I worked harder than others to earn them. I desperately wanted to be liked but always felt like the “biggest dork.” I wanted to please my parents, my friends, my boyfriends but felt like none of them “understood me.” I wanted success but was afraid of the responsibility that came with it. I was often afraid of my own shadow. I didn’t know what I wanted “to do with my life” though I was sure I was supposed to know by the age of 12. I wanted to fit in, but I wanted to be different. And, most of all, I just wanted to be invisible.

By my early teens, I stopped wanting my mom to “make such a big deal” out of my birthday. When my mom would ask what I wanted for my birthday, I would often reply, “Nothin’. Let’s just skip it.” I  didn’t want the attention because I didn’t want to “be seen.” Why would I? I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I certainly didn’t want any further attention cast in my direction.

Another common reply I gave was, “I don’t know,” which was the more truthful answer. I didn’t know. I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know who I wanted to be. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. I didn’t know what made me special because I sure didn’t believe I was special. I was in the throes of classic teen angst, and through it all, my mom insisted on celebrating me. I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t like living in my own skin, much less celebrating my birthday.

For the next 2 decades, I would celebrate my birthday with friends and family, but with great reserve and the fostered insecurities of a teen girl. As a mother myself, I now ache for the efforts my mom put into making me feel special during those years. I see my girls faces as I write this. They are in their tumultuous teen years, searching for their “specialness.” I think of how my mom so desperately wanted me to see that I was special from the day I was born, and worthy of celebration. I think of my girls, and how I am trying to teach them the same. They each came into this world special and unique and worthy of celebration, everyday and particularly on their birthdays.

Sometime in my mid-30’s, my mom took me out to lunch to celebrate my birthday. I had delivered my second child roughly 6 months earlier, had lost the baby weight, and truthfully, felt pretty good in my own skin for the first time in my life. We lingered at lunch that day, just the 2 of us. We chatted about motherhood, marriage, and being women. I remember saying, “30’s aren’t so bad,” and I’ll never forget her response; “Oh, honey, if you think 30’s are good, just wait until you get to your 40’s. 50’s are even better.” That was the best birthday gift she ever gave me.

She was right. Though not without challenges, 40’s have been pretty darn fabulous! A couple of years back, one of my closest friends entered her 40’s. She asked me, her older and wiser friend, “What are 40’s like?” I replied, “Hitting 40 is like this: You’ve tried on the same coat every day of your life, and now, it finally fits.” I believe we grow into our skin as we age, and with 50’s just around the corner, my excitement builds, and the celebrations get bigger.

Today is my birthday; a day to celebrate me. I spent many years hiding from this day. In my teen years, I didn’t want to be seen. Through my 20’s, I carried my insecurities forward and avoided the “lime-light.”  I stepped out of the shadows in my 30’s, and in my 40’s, I took ownership of my own skin and learned to celebrate me.

In her book, A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson wrote,

Our deepest fear…Is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be–brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Today, I will celebrate and I will make a wish; I wish that everyone can learn to celebrate their unique and special gifts that only they can bring to this world.

Whether or not today is your birthday, what gift can you give yourself, today, to remind you, “Baby, you’re a firework!”?