Something huge happened to me recently. Like, really huge. Bigger than winning a million bucks. Bigger than gaining fifty thousand Instagram Followers in three days. Bigger than the newest frappuccino flavor at Starbucks.
I. Turned. Forty.
Me! Forty! If I’m being honest, I was a little taken aback by the whole thing. I mean, of course I lied and said I was okay if anyone asked me how I felt about turning forty. They say age is just a number, right? I’ve handled navigating my way through marriage, birthing kids, and taking care of said kids while they were throwing up in the car. I could totally handle this birthday.
So, yes. I lied about being okay. Age really felt like more than just a number. After all, forty is half way to eighty! It was impossible to approach this birthday without any doubts.
But after I accepted that I was finally in my forties, I started to feel better about myself than I ever have before.
I know. You’ve heard women say this and it’s difficult to fathom this concept with doubts like mine swirling in your head. I used to hear this and think, There’s no way age can compensate for youth!
But girl, let me tell you something. THIS IS A LIE.
I realize how short life is as I drink my millionth cup of coffee, take the millionth picture of my kids and change into yoga pants for the millionth time this year. It's too short to not do, be, say or love what I want.
If I were able to chat with my younger self over a cup of coffee, there is some advice I would give myself about my kids ahead of time. Since I'm not able to do that, though, I'll share my wisdom with you instead.
1. Have your kids as soon as you possibly can. I know what you’re thinking. You want “you” time before you have kids. I feel you. Enjoy a little you time, but then get cracking! I realize this sort of goes against the norm, but having a teenager at 40 when so many of my friends have young toddlers is quite eye opening (in a good way.) I realize we can’t plan our futures, but age isn’t kind on the body! You can press pause on your career, but not your body.
2. Cute habits now can be not-so-cute later. Isn’t it sweet? He’s a thumb sucker. Sure. this is sweet at two-years-old. But it's not so sweet when you’re asking your eight-year-old to take his thumb out of his mouth while he’s watching television. This may sound dramatic, but some habits are better when they're kicked at a young age. Consider yourself warned and nip them in the bud as soon as possible.
3. Chill out about everything. There are moments you probably just can't be chill, like when your child is unloading the dishwasher and breaks the last wine glass. But as you age, you realize that everything can be handled in a calm way. Eventually everything will resolve itself, and being chill through it all is what will make other moms will look at you and think, Wow, she’s a great mom. And let’s face it -- when the kids are in bed, who’s going to know that you brought the whole wine bottle to the sofa?
4. Take time to celebrate the small things. I’m telling you, when you are a parent, the little things are truly the biggest (and best) things. Every day, I try to document something small in my children's life that brings me pleasure. It could be something like making a homemade pizzaor all of us laying on my bed, laughing at Spongebob. As time passes, these moments will mean more to you than ANYTHING. Look for them. Love them. Cherish them.
5. Pray over everything. Even if you aren't the praying type, still invest some reflection and thought into decisions. If you have kids, you will often find yourself asking a higher power for help in some type of way. You will put holes in the knees of your yoga pants because there will be days – MANY days—when you don’t know if you can (or want to) go on. But you can and you will. I often find myself meditating on the first commandment (thou shalt not murder) when I repeatedly find my house NEVER STAYS CLEAN due to my children.
6. Kid problems don’t go away, they evolve. You may look forward to your toddler exiting the terrible two’s. But when they leave that stage you’re getting into potty training, how to read, how to be a good friend, how to study -- and eventually how to drive. Try to enjoy every stage, no matter how hard it may be. Being thankful for each stage will help you cope with the negatives and rejoice in the positives.
7. Your "stuff" is replaceable. Your youngest spilled his entire cup of milk into your Louis Vuitton. Your favorite vintage mixing bowl is now shattered into a thousand pieces thanks to your oldest. Trust me. You will look back on these not-so-good moments and wish you hadn’t reacted at all. Stuff is stuff. It’s replaceable and far less valuable than your family. It doesn’t matter that you saved up every penny for that purse and it doesn't matter if you loved that bowl. Place a higher value on the things that really are worth having in your life.
8. Give plenty of hugs and kisses even if they hate it. Lucky for me, my boys loved getting kisses and hugs at most ages. My sweet boys still come up and randomly hug me, especially my youngest, and it’s the best thing ever. When your whole life is about them, with them and for them, you will sometimes wonder if they notice that you’re a servant, nanny, maid, chauffeur and cook all rolled into one. But when they come up and hug you and then run off … you know that they know. So keep kissing and hugging them, even if you don’t think they notice.
10. Say “yes.” A lot. Why? Because your “no’s” are going to outnumber your “yes’s” by a hundred to one. So, for your sanity and theirs, say yes a bit more than what you’re comfortable with. Let them jump into the pool with their clothes on, let them build a Lego tower that stays in your living room for a month, let them keep twenty stuffed animals on their bed at all times if they want to. The Lego tower will come down and the animals will eventually be donated, but the experiences they gain will last a lifetime.
11. Your kids will only learn dissatisfaction from your own behavior. Woah. That one kind of hits home, especially for me. Listen. Everything your kids know, as they grow up, they know and learn from you. If you’re thankful for everything, they will hear and imitate that. If you’re swearing at the car next to you or whining about your lackluster wardrobe, they’re going to imitate that as well. Thankfulness and a grateful heart are infectious. With a crazy, consuming world around us, I’d rather show them to be thankful for everything they have, even if it isn’t much. I wish I had known this one about fifteen years ago!
12. Be crazy with them. You already lost your marbles the day they were born! This is beyond true. Be as crazy as you possibly can. Have the biggest sense of humor. Laugh with them, at them or give them something to laugh about! One thing about having kids is that there’s a fine line between being the adult who keeps rules and becoming a dictator who sucks the fun out of the room. Naptime had to be rigid for my kids, otherwise they would turn into little terrors, but other than that everything else was flexible and fun. Let your kids ignite the childlike part of your personality. Do cartwheels outside in the grass, have cart races with your oldest at Target and be in the moment no matter how silly you feel. Your kids will remember those moments forever.
13. Say “I love you” a little too often. I found out just last week that a friend's son, who was eleven, passed away in his sleep -- completely out-of-the blue. It was a sobering reminder to love those around me, and express it as often as possible. Life is a huge gift. Every new day is a gift. Every breath you take, a gift. I have to remember to tell my kids how much they mean to me, even when I’m not happy with them, because life is short and so very fragile. Love is perfect. Love is everything. Make sure you tell them you love them, even if they already know.
Forty really is just a number when you have a beautiful family on your side. My advice? Appreciate the small moments, squeeze them a little tighter than normal and remember what really matters in this crazy life.