We are celebrating a birthday! I love birthdays, for the kids especially, but the one tough thing about birthdays is the emotional aspect. The kids are growing up, changing, getting older. I, too, am growing up, changing and definitely getting older. As the birthday girl’s face glowed in the light from her candles, I watched in wonder at this child, who just a few years ago could be held balanced on my forearm, nursed while I made dinner, slept in a mechanical swing that rocked her into sleepy oblivion.
As happy as I was for her, eyes sparkling, ready to delve into her stack of gifts and sprinkled birthday cake, I was mourning. Mourning who she was just yesterday, mourning the loss of the child she was, the one who couldn’t yet read or tie her shoes or stand to be away from Mommy ever. I mourned for myself as well. I’m not going to be around for every birthday she will celebrate. Someday her father and I will be absent from the table as she looks wide-eyed in excitement at her cake and gifts. Will she be surrounded by people who love and care for her as deeply as I do now? If I could only know for sure the answer to that question would be yes.
But I keep my chin up, comfort myself with the fact that I’m here NOW. She will never be this girl again, tomorrow she will be a different girl from today, next week she will be growing and stretching her mind in new ways and I will struggle to keep up. In the pain of letting her go I am forced to confront my own mortality, but let go I must. It’s our job to watch them stand up in the nest, we encourage them to look around and explore, support their attempts at flying, patiently awaiting their return.
As my birthday girl closes her eyes, makes a wish and blows out her candles, I too make a silent wish in my own heart. I wish for her a happy, healthy, joy filled life, strengthened by faith and when I’m no longer around to sing Happy Birthday with tears in my eyes, I pray she has a room filled with her best friends and family who will do it for me.