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Reflections on turning 34

Saturday is my birthday. I'll be spending it on an early morning bike ride then picking apples at an orchard with my family. If my luck stays high, I may get a German chocolate cake. And this birthday comes on the heels of my son's first full week of preschool.

Next year is the big one. 35. The year I can no longer round down to be 30 in my head. Mid-30's. Official. I realized last night at a town hall when a 22 year old stood up to speak that when he referred to "young people" he wasn't talking about me anymore. In my heart and head, I still hope I'll be celebrating next year by either having just completed--or be just about to complete--an iron-distance triathlon. That's just been my goal for how to celebrate. Make no little plans. What better way to mark a milestone than by doing something so miserable that you can't help but feel alive?

But this birthday is different.

I'd planned to do a full write-up about the First Day of School but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe I still will. Instead, a full week of picking up and dropping off and observation has put the drama more in perspective. Yes, there were tears. On both sides. My aim in having kids though wasn't that I raise them to hold my hand constantly. My aim is to raise them to be independent beings who don't need to be have their hands held.

Which means so far I've been successful. I've had my reservations about how Cole is really doing...mentally. But the reports from the teacher have been glowing. This morning, he enthusiastically jumped out of the car and ran to greet her at the front door--by name. The first thing he asks about when he wakes up is excited talk about needing to get ready to go to school.

All week he's been doing this cute/annoying short answer to basic questions that has puzzled me. If you ask him if he wants a sandwich or to read a book or go outside...or whatever...he'll answer with a very blunt "nope" or "yep." I find it partly rude considering we've been working on please and thank you so hard. On the other hand, I've tried to let it go because the wrestling affection and wanting to be carried to the car occasionally hasn't gone away. Somewhere in there is a very vulnerable little boy. But darn it, he's doing a pretty good interpretation of a responsible, smart, well-adjusted schoolkid. It's unsettling as a grownup who has cared for him since birth. He took his shoes off when he came home without me even reminding him. How did he mature a year or two in 4 days?

Then there's Leda. I've taken her to storytime twice. Actually, the same storytime...same books, same songs...on two different mornings and she eats it up. She plays with the musical instruments, reads along in the pop-up book, does the motions to the songs, dances, hardly sits on my lap at all. She's no introverted, shy flower. She's a fully blooming little weed who wouldn't go away even if you wanted her to. She has an infectious way of insisting that you admire her cuteness and nearly-rudely joining any group of children or adults she feels like. Because, well, she's just that kind of girl. An extrovert who gives you a funny look if you say no. One that makes you believe you may actually be the one in the wrong for not giving her another milk.

All that said, I can't think of a better way to have a birthday. Some people go to Vegas. Some people want a fancy dinner out. I just want to drive 2 hours to pick some apples with my DLP and my two kids who seem to need me now only in a peripheral way. I know it only gets worse from here. I try not to take for granted that she wants to crawl in my lap to watch tv. There will come a day when she fights me for the remote. And Cole will be out at the movies with his friends.

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