For days and even weeks after my 40th birthday, I received apologies.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get you something special for your 40th,” and “Shoot, we should have gone somewhere for your 40th,” and, “Maybe we should do something for your 40.5!”
What’s funny is that despite not opening any huge presents, having a big party, or basking in the sun on a beach, I had everything I needed on that day — and was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Because at this time in my life, I am surrounded by gifts every day.
At 40, a gift is having happy kids who have become my friends. They keep me busy constantly and I feel like a taxi driver most days, but there is no one I’d rather spend my time with. After many tough years of getting no sleep, changing diapers and stepping on Legos, my life is finally so much easier. In fact, I noticed recently that I’m actually getting to the end of (some) evenings without even having to reach for a bottle of wine! Suddenly, my kids are more self-sufficient — able to make their own food and clean up their messes (in the kitchen, at least. The boys’ bathroom is another story). They’re at ages where they still like to sit and talk to me at dinner (I know the day will come when I’m not cool enough for that). And most importantly, they’re healthy — and they’re here. In a time when I am increasingly surrounded by parents who aren’t so lucky, that really is the best gift of all.
At 40, I am lucky to be married to the guy I’ve loved for over half of my life. A guy who sacrificed a lot to bring us where we are today. A guy who supported my decision to put my career on hold to raise our family while he traveled and went to school, and who is supporting me now as I begin my career again. Our life hasn’t always been easy, with years where we had to charge groceries and fought over whose turn it was to have a night out, but knowing that we always fought for our family makes our years together worth that much more. I have in him one of the most important gifts I could ever ask for — a dad who loves our kids more than anything.
At this age, I am surrounded by friends from all walks of my 40 years of life. Friends I grew up with who know that just because we don’t see each other often doesn’t mean we aren’t here for each other. Work friends from my pre-parenting days who are always good for networking, or for a fun night of karaoke. Friends I met when our kids were little, and who know that although our kids may no longer play together, we will each always be an extra set of eyes around town. Friends who offer — before I even ask — to watch my little girl while I watch her brothers play ball, just because they know it makes it easier for me. Friends who I can call to pick up my kids from practice if I cut my trip to Costco too close. Friends who tell me to snap out of a funk — reminding me that I am a good mom, or a good writer, or a good housekeeper (yes, I have some friends that lie just to make me feel better). At this age, and in this busy life, I have friends who weave in and out of my life but who will always be there when I need them — and that is an amazing gift.
One of the best gifts at 40 is having a family who values each other. When I hear of so many at this age who have lost touch with siblings, or no longer speak to their parents, I am reminded how lucky I am. My brothers are my best friends, even though they live hundreds of miles away. After an incredibly close call several years ago, my mother is still alive for me to call and talk to. Both of my parents are down the road and will help with my kids at the drop of a hat – literally any time I need them. And I even have in-laws that I LIKE — how many people can say that? I look forward to holidays, birthday celebrations, and everything in between with family. What a gift that is.
At 40, my health is a gift. I hate that it’s taken multiple friends who’ve become really sick for me to comprehend it, but I know now that I can never take my health for granted. I’ve learned from these brave people that life can be unpredictable, and so I must live each day to the fullest. Ten years ago, I didn’t know how stupid it was to waste time cleaning sticky floors and folding piles of laundry. So at 40 in my spare time, I choose to sit outside and drink a beer, read a good book in bed, meet a friend for lunch, or watch a movie with my kids. Because at this stage in my life, each free moment is a gift.
I could go on and on with how lucky I feel at this age. What’s funny is that even though they say age is just a number, I really believe it’s taken 40 years to realize just how fortunate I am. If I were to get to this time in my life and expect the best gift to take me to an island or be wrapped up in a box, then I haven’t really grown at all.
P.S. If I get to my 50th and y’all don’t throw me a party, well, that’ll be a whole nother blog post.