I remember when my mom turned forty. We pulled into the driveway tired and sun-kissed after spending a long week at the lake. Our front door was wrapped like a present and it said, “Happy Birthday from your forever younger friend!” We all laughed hysterically. Except my mom. She laughed a little but I don’t remember her thinking it was nearly as funny as the rest of us.
Mom’s milestone birthday doesn’t seem that long ago and now I just celebrated my very own big 4-0!
Although funny isn’t the main word I would use to describe what I’m feeling about my big birthday either, I wouldn’t say that I feel the opposite. I’m not sad and depressed about my crows feet, my clothes fitting differently, and my inability to stay up much past 9:30 p.m. What I’ve given up–out of desire or necessity–has been a trade for the better.
Of course there’s been a gap in my expectations of forty and my reality at forty. And in a way, this birthday has marked a turning point of my expectations. It’s a letting go of the dreams I’ve held tightly for many decades. It’s receiving the gifts I have been given, even though they look quite differently than what I dreamt as a little girl.
What I expected my life to look like at forty.
I expected to have older kids who were more independent. I never expected to have a medically fragile, special needs child who in many ways at almost four-years-old is still like having a six month old.
I expected to go back to work outside the home. I expected to have a daily sense of accomplishment and have someone would pay me for my efforts in the form of money, not in the form of cuddles and kisses (which are far better by the way).
I expected to be strong and healthy and not have chronic back problems, from lifting one very cute little boy.
I expected to live near my extended family somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon line. (I never expected this much sun exposure year round which I think I can legitimately blame for those wrinkles around my eyes.)
There they are.
Some pretty basic–and honestly kinda boring–expectations.
Why forty looks better than I expected.
It’s not in having fulfilled hopes and dreams that makes my life at forty good. It’s how I can look back and see how the gracious hand of God has guided and carried me. From this vantage point in my life I can see how He’s used my successes and failures to form my talents and drive my desire to keep going. I notice how the things I enjoyed as a kid are still true of me and I’ve stopped trying to change them. I’ve learned that risk does occasionally yield reward, and I’m glad I’ve taken a couple of big leaps. I understand my limitations and more readily acknowledge my inability to be perfect and yet I can unwaveringly count on Grace for another day. Most markedly, I see how the trials and pain in my life have made room for great joy in the little things.
And forty most definitely looks better than I expected because I have an amazing family. My husband is truly a partner on this journey of raising two very different boys. He teaches me daily to relax and slow down. My oldest son teaches me to laugh. My littlest guy with disabilities teaches me to observe and be patient.
The view looking forward is good. Not because I don’t have any challenges on the horizon or because can clearly see everything that is ahead. It is good because God is good. He who was, and is, and forever will be is Emmanuel, God with me.
So I think mom and I can agree, forty isn’t funny, but so far it’s been a heck of a lot of fun!
My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!