My daughter is 5 today. As has been the case every November 29 since the day she was born, I will spend the day in emotional chaos.
Two reasons. First, my daughter's entry into the world was challenging: she was transferred to another hospital at four hours old, had surgery at five days old and spent 25 long, tedious days in the NICU. Every year I relive the events and emotions of the most joyful and terrifying day of my life and the month that followed.I was 34, so technically I had been an adult for quite awhile. But that day was the first time in my life when I truly felt like a grown-up. That feeling has never left.
Which leads me to reason number two: having a child is like living with life's ticking time bomb. No matter how young you feel, every day you are greeting with a face that tells you that you're getting older (and it's not your increasingly wrinkled one in the mirror). My mom and I have discussed this many times. We are 20 years apart in age. She has told me that it felt like no big deal to her when she turned 50. It was a few months later, when I turned 30 that she was thrown for an unexpected emotional frenzy, wondering how she could have a 30-year-old daughter when she herself didn't feel a day over 30.
This year when my mom turned 59 what felt most disturbing to her was having a 39-year-old daughter because, yes, she still feels only 30 and unless she's a scientific miracle, that's not possible. I am her ticking time bomb just as my daughter is now mine. Our children become a constant reminder that time is passing, and it's confusing because inside we young and old and in the middle all at the same time.
It reminds me of a birthday card I recently saw that said something to the effect of: the beauty of getting older is that you still get to be every age you've ever been. I love that sentiment, but I have to say it's getting a bit crowded in head. My chatty 5-year-old self is hanging with the sullen 15-year-old and the tentative yet hopeful 25-year-old and this 39-year-old who I'm still trying to figure out. It's no wonder that some days, like today, I feel a little bit like Sybil. Anybody else get that feeling?