Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me! I am 38 for those who are curious.
Now, I have never been one for freaking out over getting older, though when I turned 20 I do distinctly remember thrashing around my dorm room distraught that no matter what I did I would no longer ever be considered a child prodigy. Janet Jackson was big at the time and as I left my teen years behind, I felt sad that I would never be able to compete with her for most albums sold by a 19 year old. Granted, I had no musical ambitions, unless they included a Broadway stage. But I started to notice that others my age were off making grand marks on the world and I was still just dreaming of mine.
So with each subsequent birthday, I always sort of looked around and took stock of my place in the world. Needless to say, I wasn’t always satisfied.
But this year as I look around, things are different.
There are a few more grays than I would prefer along with a few pounds that are getting harder and harder to shed. There is no book deal yet (book deal has now replaced album sales in my fantasies). Most people now call me ma’am, instead of miss (oh, the indignity of getting ma’amed). And my Wii Fit told me my Wii age was 50, but my Wii Fit can suck it.
But even with all of that, on this birthday, as I turn another year older, I smile for I have great accomplishments.
I have a lovely husband. I have a son that I know I technically gave life, but feel has provided me with mine.
Now, I am not so evolved to not worry about how my face and body are changing, or that when I stand up I sometimes feel stuck in place or that at times my brain can’t always find the word I want to use.
I recently found a picture that was taken at my best friend’s wedding in Jamaica. My husband and I are quite certain this is the weekend we conceived our son. At the time, I thought the yellow sun dress I was wearing was too snug. I thought I was not as fashionable as some of her other friends, enough so that I ran back to my room during the reception and changed, twice.
When I showed the picture to my husband, he said, rather surprised and too strongly for my liking, “You look so young!”
But he was right. Looking at this picture, I see a young, fresh-faced, rather thin and adorable woman who is smiling with happiness for her friend. I wish I’d known that then. Perhaps when I look back at the 38-year-old me now, I will see that I actually look better than I think I do and be impressed.
But I know that I do not look like that any more. Motherhood has certainly aged me. I have not slept well for almost three years. My body is forever altered. My stomach shall never be showcased in a bikini again. The worry and anguish over my son’s medical needs have found their way into lines and circles under my eyes.
But something else is there too. I would not go so far as to say it is wisdom, because I am still grasping and trying to figure it all out. But there is a comfort and a pride I have with myself now that I am fairly certain has come with age and specifically, with motherhood. It is a strength in knowing who I am, knowing that I have made it this far and am capable of taking care of myself and trusting that I am taking care of my family.
On my fifth wedding anniversary a few months ago, my husband and I went to a restaurant to celebrate. I went to the ladies room at the same time as this very attractive younger woman. I briefly flashed that she had nicer clothes and lovelier skin than I did. But then I noticed that she sort of looked down as we waited for the stall. She hid behind her hair a bit. I saw that youthful insecurity I used to wear. As I stood there and looked at the mirror readying myself to go back out and join my husband, I realized that while I certainly still have my doubts and worries about my appearance and abilities, I have found a confidence that comes with age and experience that carries me that she did not seem yet to have. And I liked it.
So as I turn 38, it is quite clear that I am no longer 18 (the recent invitation to my 20th high school reunion makes that perfectly clear). But I don’t want to be 18 anymore. Or even 28. This age suits me nicely.
Though, I admit, when the checkout guy at Whole Foods on occasion mistakenly calls me miss instead of ma’am, I still melt and swoon like the teenage girl I used to be.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.