Last month, I turned 36. The downhill slide to forty. My mental checklist was in full tailspin of things I should accomplish by the time I hit the big 4-0. See a dermatologist for a full body exam. Ramp up my boys’ college funds. Double my 401(k). And the to-do list goes on.
My hips ache some days and my laugh lines are rivaling sagging skin from age and 3 pregnancies to claim my body’s middle age trophy. There is no bouncing back.
Or so I thought.
I stepped back and slowed my racing heart. Life is happening now, not four years from now.
While I may not be able to control my physical decline, I can control my perspective as I navigate this second half of thirty somethings. When 40 hits, all three of my sons will be in elementary or the last year of middle school. Should I judge my last years in my thirties by my eyes and opinions or theirs? While achieving my “Approaching 40” mental checklist should ideally naturally occur in the background, I’m choosing to make my family the ultimate agenda.
Choosing to make family the prize in today’s competitive, over-scheduled, media-driven world has to be fought for. It doesn’t happen without some effort and proactive steps.
I’m staring down my countdown to forty as my next parenting challenge and I’ve set goals to make it a winning inning.
- Weeding out the good but unnecessary to make BIG and small family memories the priority. Embrace “no” as freedom, instead of an admittance of inability. Spend less time around my kids, and more time with my kids.
- Model affection through words of gratitude, love and respect. And back up my words with hugs, high fives, snuggles, and in my house full of boys, wrestling. The moments they know they are loved will carry them father than the perfect Pinterest-worthy school snack.
- Delight in them and their company, and dwell less on the thankless tasks that consume my days. Bring them alongside me as we serve each other in our home. My children are a blessing from God, not a burden.
- Open our front door to friends, family and new people. Eat, play, laugh and make messes under our roof with those we love and those who love us.
- Put many miles on our family SUV. Make adventure a priority and kick obstacles to the curb.
On a vacation filled with outdoor hikes and family camaraderie last month, my oldest son looked at us with sweat on his forehead and dirt on his shins after reaching the summit on a hike. He said, “I love this. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for bringing us here.” When I reach the summit of forty, I want to look at my family with sweat on my forehead while dusting off dirt from our latest adventure and say, “Thank you for bringing me here.” And be filled with love for where I’m at, instead of a checklist that I’ve accomplished.
Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So lace up your shoes with me, we are about to hit our stride and break our personal bests. It only goes up hill from here, because life and motherhood get better with age.