27 Oct Best Birthday Gift? Spending it With My Adult Children
My mother was the birthday queen.
Partly because she loved any sort of celebration—but mostly because she made birthdays the most precious and sacred day. She raised me on the belief that there was just one day of the year that belonged to only “YOU”.
She firmly believed that every other holiday had to be shared. Christmas, Hanukkah—you name it—everyone got a present.
But for me, I grew up knowing that my birthday was uniquely mine— a National Holiday built on “over the top” parties—or gifts wrapped in silver boxes with purple ribbon. (Bergdorf Goodman fans will get the reference).
With its proximity to Halloween she staged elaborate costume parties now preserved in photo albums full of pictures of children in bizarre costumes. Except for me…I was always dressed as a princess.
On Saturday, I turned the unimpressive age of 53. There were no purple bows or magic fairy dust. And no one dressed up. But at this age– and in this moment– I thankfully have come to realize the greatest gift is the unexpected gift. It is the one right in front of us….
It is the gift of the legacy we will leave behind. I realize in the stillness of a Monday night post birthday weekend extravaganza this might sound sort of morbid—but honestly there is no greater gift than watching our children become their adult selves. We no longer craft play dates because we like their parents. We no longer choose their friends or their partners—but we like them.
This year’s best birthday gift was watching my children grow into separate people—watching them bring their collective stories to the table. It was watching and learning from them as they emerge and evolve.
I went to New York for my birthday. My 23 year old daughter (who no longer looks like she was ever from Ohio) planned and executed every detail. She is a New Yorker—knows every restaurant. She rides her bike to work—knows the subway like she built it—and can navigate Avenue A. When did she become a New Yorker—strong and determined? I am in awe.
My oldest daughter flew from Chicago to join the celebration. It is easy for her—doesn’t every 25 year old have TSA clearance? She whizzes by every security line leaving me in the dust. Who knew she would be a world traveler? Wasn’t it yesterday she would not leave my hip to go to nursery school? She is strong and independent. I am in awe.
My 21 year old daughter sadly missed the party…only because she was in charge of the Wisconsin Alumnae Student Board “road trip game day to Illinois.” Dressed in UW red and white game day attire she led 50 plus people safe and sound to Champagne, IL (and back to Madison). Watch out—my girl might be president of the United States one day. I am in awe.
And… then there is my son—the only boy. I left him at college six weeks ago worried that he wouldn’t be able to do his own laundry. Guess what—six weeks makes a man! He took a bus and a train and an UBER (he is a millennial) to surprise me at my birthday dinner. I cried when I saw him. He is not the child I left at college. I am in awe.
The new talents, skills and interests of our children are the precious gifts they bring back.
On this birthday– and in this year of the empty nester– I am forever grateful for the gift of my children. They are maturing and growing stronger with every mile that took them away.
Guess what? So am I, growing up and growing wiser myself. And, at 53, realizing the real ‘stuff of life’ doesn’t need glitz and glitter, because it already has a shine of its own.