In a few days, I’ll turn 41 – which is a year past the black balloons and the “Oh Lordy, she’s 40” jokes. And it’s two years past 39, which I always felt was a desperate-sounding age, like it’s clinging to its last shred of youth by brittle fingernails.
Forty-one seems like a mixed bag of good and annoying, so I’ve noted a few key observations about it here – 41 to be exact.
1. Lately I’m doing that thing people do when they pick up something with small print on it and try to read it.
2. My arm shoots out a little to hold the thing at a distance, and then I bring it closer.
3. I blink several times, as if the extra blinking will somehow bring it into focus.
4. Then I blame poor lighting in the room and hand it to one of the kids to read.
5. In general, music is too loud.
6. I’ve become that lady in the restaurant who asks the waitress if she minds turning down the music a little.
7. I like to enjoy my grilled chicken salad without Bon Jovi wailing in my ear.
8. I’m not nearly as embarrassed as I should be about being the lady in the restaurant who asks for the music to be turned down.
9. My hip bones snap, crackle and pop more than the breakfast cereal.
10. I stopped getting “carded” when ordering a drink more than a decade ago.
11. Not getting carded doesn’t bother me anymore.
12. I’m beginning to feel like I’m earning my place at the grown-ups’ table.
13. Work is more rewarding than it ever was before.
14. But I’m old enough to know that my job is not the most important thing I do.
15. My kids don’t need to be rocked to sleep anymore.
16. They don’t crawl into my lap and ask me to read a book.
17. And I miss those moments fiercely sometimes, craving the magic of the baby phase that slips by so quickly.
18. Sometimes I feel the strong urge to ask complete strangers if I can hold their baby for a few minutes while we’re in the same waiting room.
19. Most of the time I don’t.
20. Because that’s weird, right?
21. But when I do, I’m always glad I did.
22. I don’t miss the dirty diapers, though.
23. Not even a little bit.
24. Pictures are important to me now more than ever because I’m more keenly aware of how fast the kids are growing up.
25. I’m much more comfortable behind the camera, as it’s not as kind to me at 41 as it was at 21 or 31.
26. I think my camera may be ageist.
27. My body doesn’t lose weight as easily as it did before.
28. I keep gaining and losing the same two pounds over and over again.
29. As I watch the way people age, I believe fitness and health is incredibly valuable.
30. I also think good cheesecake is valuable.
31. I’m still trying to figure out how to have a little of the second one without wrecking the first one.
32. My oldest child is on the on-ramp to the teenage years.
33. Watching the way he tries to make sense of the world from a more adult perspective is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen.
34. Helping him make sense of the world is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
35. Noticing moments of true kindness, generosity and goodness in my kids is the most humbling, soul-filling experience I ever have.
36. They’re the moments that make aging eyes, cracking hip bones and that stubborn five pounds seem relatively harmless.
37. I worry about my parents’ health as much or more than my kids’ health.
38. I research their medical conditions on Google.
39. I worry about them and hope they’re taking their medications the way they should.
40. I look at them and feel immensely grateful for the life they gave me.
41. Because even with the mixed bag of blessings at age 41, I know life is good and that makes this birthday and every birthday “happy” indeed.
And I’ve still got more “to grow on.” Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography