Monday, November 14, 2016

The Changing Face of Birthdays

My daughter turns nineteen today, and this will be the first time in her life we haven’t celebrated her birthday together. Yet another one of the milestones parenting a young adult brings. 

Not one to sit on the sidelines, especially when there's celebrating involved, I convinced my husband to take her up on her suggestion of meeting in New York last weekend. We spent two days together as a family, celebrating her birthday by seeing a show and seeing the sites, continuing the New York City birthday tradition begun when she turned sixteen and our trip included additional teenagers who kept things both lively and fun.

If I thought that birthdays would get cheaper and easier once she passed the age where we invited the whole daycare class to her celebrations, I (and my checkbook) could be sorely disappointed (and depleted). Instead, I've discovered that having a young adult who still wants to celebrate her birthday with her parents is a gift in and of itself, one that makes the dollars and cents aspects of the celebration less relevant than I expected. Sure, she got a weekend in New York out of the deal, but we got one too, along with the opportunity to get another snapshot of her at this new stage of life.

At nineteen, she's poised and growing in confidence, excited about taking the train from Connecticut while we took one from Pennsylvania and met at Penn Station in New York. Her personal sense of fashion is burgeoning, and she worries less about other people's opinion than her own comfort and style. Excited to see the stage version of her favorite Disney movie (Aladdin), she's also mature enough to engage in intelligent conversation about world events and to worry about her dad, who spent Saturday night in the hotel room with a stomach bug. And modest enough to be annoyed that I wrote all this, should she happen to stumble across this blog. 

Yesterday, as I watched her navigate Grand Central Station, check on her train and head to the right spot to catch it, I didn't feel the urge to cry or run after her, let alone hold her hand or second guess her. As she headed for her destination, I watched for a moment until her striped bag was out of sight, savoring the victory of having raised a child who could do those things with confidence. Pride shoved sadness out of the way, tilting goodbye more toward the sweet than the bitter than I thought possible. 

It helps, of course, that I'll be seeing her again in five days, and that she's looking forward to coming home. I know her excited anticipation has as much to do with seeing her friends here and driving her car as it does with seeing us (okay, probably even more those things), but isn't that how it's supposed to be?

And at the end of the day, I get to find her sleeping in her own bed, the same sweet, slumbering face I saw yesterday morning in the  hotel room brightening our house for almost a week. And, in her waking hours, making noise, dirtying dishes, catching up on laundry and making plans that don't include us.

But I'm okay with all of that. In fact, those things are a big part of what I'll be giving thanks for.

And last weekend was just a teaser.

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