"All children, except one, grow up."
--J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Here is a picture of one of my favorite, most serene moments from our 2011 beach vacation:
Watching my husband and children play on the beach, I felt total peace and contentment. A verse from one of my favorite hymns came to mind:
Today is my birthday. I'm 42.
My fears about turning 40 were, of course, totally unfounded, as all my 40 year old friends had told me beforehand. My life did not end.
But my perspective about it has changed.
At the end of the summer I read J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I wasn't all that interested in reading it, to be honest, but my sister Megan begged me to, as it is one of her favorites. She had suffered through James Baldwin's Another Country at my request and hated every word of it, so I really did owe her one. As I read the first paragraph of Peter Pan, my throat tightened painfully and my eyes stung with tears:
"All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end."
This is where the focus of my life is, not in wishing I could "remain like this forever," but in wishing my children could! It isn't seeing my life rushing by that makes me wistful, but watching them rushing through theirs. I don't identify with Peter Pan (though I obviously did at 39!) or even Wendy, who loved to play at being a grown up, but knew full well she was really still a child.
No, I am happy to be a friend of Mrs. Darling, savoring those prickly-sweet moments of my daughters' childhood adventures. I still have dreams, but they mostly come down to this: Being what they need me to be while they still need me and, however much I put my hand to my heart and try to resist it, helping them grow up until they don't.
|My girls took me out to my favorite Thai restaurant for my birthday lunch: My treat! :)|