Today my oldest daughter, "Sid," turned 14. It was surprisingly painless. People continue to remind my husband and I that she'll be able to drive in 2 years, that she'll be going to college in 4 years, that she is legal to drink in 7 years, etc.. These comments seem intended to get us to wince in pain at the thought of our "baby" doing all of these very independent things. I'm reminded of an episode of Star Trek. The geek in me must make these connections...
I remember a Next Generation episode during which the first officer is visited by his father. In it Deanna, the counselor, points out that humans (Terrans, not humanoid species in general) are unique in that parents often regard their offspring as children (and thusly inept) even after they reach adulthood. Once again, Star Trek has nailed it. Maybe we'll evolve by the 24th century.
I try not to act as though I consider my kids inept. I prefer to let them succeed or fail on their own because I know those are the lessons that stick. My husband is in agreement with me that our kids should be expected to handle their own lives. However, I'm still training him to let the kids just do some things themselves. Intervening mode seems more natural for him though. I'm hoping to get him reprogrammed before the kids are in grad school.
Kids seem to catch-on to so many things faster than we do. It may be revenge visited upon us by our ancestors but it's almost a fact that kids assimilate social and technological changes faster than their parents. I like to think of it as a sign that our kids are emerging into the larger world. And it' not just the cheeky know-it-all stuff. How many 8 year-olds have to show their parents how to use their computers? They also bandy about phrases like "social adjustment" and "inappropriate role-model." Questions about how stuff works? Want your VCR programmed, the process of countertransference explained? Just ask a kid. If they could afford VW Beetles and drive they could have their own businesses consulting on these concepts, like Geek Squad but more widely applicable.
I can handle my kids growing up but my husband will never grow-up and leave home for the wide world.
Today was very low key, but that's what Sid wanted. We gave her her gifts, dropped her and a friend off to the movies, and had pizza and pie. We also sang the world's hardest to sing song, "Happy Birthday." Sid sat there waiting to blow out the candles listening to us butchering the classic. However, we suddenly found ourselves being conducted by an errant car alarm. Strangely, it started at the beginning of the song and ended similarly on-time. The connection-maker in me is trying to see this as a "sign" of something but can't figure out what that something may be. She had trouble blowing out the candles through her laughter.
I remember her birthday four years ago. On that day my clock radio, which was most unusually set to a radio alarm (my connection-maker went wild on that day,) failed to wake me up. Instead of waking to beeps, the sounds of the announcers describing events as they unfolded invaded the dream I was having at the time. When I finally woke up I had the sensation that I had just dreamed about Die Hard or some other action movie. I soon discovered that the dream was real, the events occurring on the other side of the country.
We didn't really know what to do or think. Our daughter was turning 10 and the world was turning their heads to the tragedy in New York. It seemed like we shouldn't be allowed to celebrate. However, I was determined to let my daughter have her birthday. We could discuss the tragedy later when we knew more. I tried not to waver in my determination as I was given dirty looks for carrying birthday cupcakes into her school.
We ended up taking her out to dinner to a fun family restaurant. I don't think there was a single table of people that wasn't celebrating a birthday. It was as if we had entered an insulated world in which the birthdays of children were all that mattered. Every adult in that restaurant had been faced with the same paradoxical day. It was probably the first and last time I felt perfectly in sync with so many other people. We poised ourselves to only see the celebrations that we were determined to carry out. We feared that, if we looked beyond that, we would falter.