Today is my 35th birthday, and I feel young. I feel vibrant! I feel really on top of the world and in control of my life.
I also feel old and tired and exhausted. I feel like my body is betraying me every other week, and I am convinced I am becoming more forgetful by the day.
While I am experiencing the joy of aging and the frustration of slowly losing my physical youth, I am in awe of watching my toddler develop her strength and grow more powerful and intelligent by the second. It is amazing – and completely terrifying.
Coraline had her 2-year-old check-in last week, and boy, is she a giant. She’s a little less of a pumpkin head now, but she’s still 99%-plus on the height scale. Kids run up to her at the playground thinking she’s 3 and expecting her to have a decent conversation with good make-believe abilities. They are disappointed when they realize she’s a dud. Though she’s extremely curious about “KEEDS!”, she’s also apprehensive about getting involved.
She’s so much braver than I ever was. My mother tells tales of me hiding behind her legs, screaming when I wasn’t with her or when anyone tried to hold me, touch me or look at me. Coraline couldn’t care less about Kevin and me sometimes, but she’ll pretty much give anyone a hug or a kiss. She’s happy to be doing her own thing and asks for help much less often than she used to. I am relishing the independence she’s developing. It is just so incredibly cool to watch her grow.
As she keeps climbing upward, I can’t help but look out into the future. I do this more and more lately, and when it happens, Coraline and I have many conversations (mostly one sided) about my expectations for her future.
There are none.
I can’t have any expectations. If I do, then I am just forcing her to live a life I want her to live, and not allowing her to live the life that she wants to live.
I want her to have the freedom to make her own choices and be the person that she wants to be. I don’t want her to fit into a mold that I have designed for her.
This is how my parents raised me and my brothers. We were not by any stretch of the imagination perfect kids. We’re not perfect adults either, but I can confidently say that we are all happy and successful. (Not that success matters. In my opinion, happiness rules all.)
Go to college or don’t. Be religious or not. Be a doctor. Be a dishwasher. Dye your hair. Shave off your eyebrows. Get a tattoo of a rooster on your face. I don’t care. It’s your life, babe.
But foundationally? That’s my responsibility, not hers.
Be a good human. Care about those less fortunate than you. Forgive others and forgive yourself. Make choices that won’t leave you with guilt. Be confident about who you are. Love yourself. Soak in nature. Embrace the magic of the people around you. Stand up for yourself and others who need a voice. Make yourself happy. Learn from your mistakes. Be brave even when you’re scared. Be thankful for every single day that you’re given. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so appreciate everything while you have it.
I sometimes struggle with how I’m going to teach her all these things. But kids learn through what they see, right? Which means that I have to be all of these things for her. Good and brave and loving and forgiving and confident and eternally grateful.
Even on days when I don’t feel like it, I have to be it. To set a good example for her. Which is exhausting as hell.
Catch up with me in 15/25/35 years, and I’ll let you know how it all played it.
In the end, no matter where she goes or what she does, no matter what kind of trouble she finds, and no matter who she becomes, I will love her with every fiber of my being until the day I turn to dust.
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