I love birthdays. I love celebrating them, my own included. (My family accuses me of celebrating a birthday month, stretching out the festivities for as long as I can.) I think what saves me in being totally obnoxious about my glee in my own birthday is that I am just as excited about marking everyone else’s special day. I love having an opportunity to honor and celebrate someone for being alive and making the world a better place with him or her in it. Everyone should get to feel that they matter and that their being on this earth makes a difference.
I would like to think that I communicate this to my loved ones on other days as well. We can’t don the party hats and eat cake every day, but we can and should celebrate each other on random days or at times when we need reminders of how special we are or what we mean to those around us. And I think this is particularly true for kids. It is so important to let them know how loved they are, how much they have enriched our lives, and how much they matter. One of my favorite parts of the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs we had for Noah, Hannah and Eliza (with one of us going into them with decidedly mixed feelings) was the opportunity to publicly declare what we loved about each of them at a time when they most needed to hear that. (Age thirteen is not an age when your peers are giving you a lot of affirmation.)
Today is Eliza’s birthday. My baby turns twenty. Eliza has some trepidation about this birthday because it marks the end of her teens and, with one year left of college, that means that adulting looms large in her future. I have tried to reassure her that all of the joys of adulting – more and more autonomy in your decision making, getting to pursue your passions and find your path (or, in my case, many meandering paths) and finding someone with whom to share the rest of your life and creating a wonderful family of your own – await her but she can still maintain all of the things that she is reluctant to leave behind in her childhood. We are here for her and will continue to be a safety net and sounding board and cheering section for her throughout her life.
I think that balance – of maintaining the joy and wonder of childhood while carving out our adult identities – is key to happiness and fulfillment. It is what I wish for all three of my kids. It is what I have tried to model in my own life. And it is something I feel all the more post-cancer, when random moments fill me with gratitude for still getting to be here to enjoy them. I am very glad that I get to wish Eliza a happy 20th birthday. I am so grateful that I got to be here for all of the years and highs and lows that led to this day, and I am so excited to see what this next exciting phase of her life yields for her.
Happy Birthday, Eliza. You are an amazing human being and I am so very proud to be your mom. I hope this next spin around the sun is the best yet, and I am so glad I have a front row seat.