My youngest just turned four on Tuesday and is acting like she has suddenly doubled her age. Four is still young compared to her older sisters, but in her mind, she has officially made it into the Big Kid Club.
Seeing her behave this way made me reflect on my own upcoming birthday. In a mere 50 days, I will turn 40 (gasp!). My husband is already 41 and I have an older brother and several older friends, so in many ways it does not seem like such a big deal. But then again it does. Forty. I remember my father’s 40th birthday, back when I was 11 years old and I thought 40 was so old. Am I really that old?
Watching my daughter this week has made me realize how many ways turning forty is actually a lot like turning four. Here are six of the ways:
1. You’re not as old as you think you are… For the past few days my youngest has repeated that “Four-year-olds can do” this and “Four-year-olds can do” that, as she tries to carry a heavy porcelain dish to the table or stay up later than usual, as if suddenly overnight she became a Big Kid. Sure, she’s no longer a toddler and she no longer qualifies for free meals at any restaurants, but let’s be clear: she’s still a Little Kid. She still wears Pull-Ups to bed at night and has all her baby teeth.
Similarly, forty is a long way off from qualifying for Senior discounts or wearing Depends and dentures: it is not old. Ok, not that old. I look at my 40+ friends and they’re not old, they are fun, fetching, fabulous and forty-something - I hope I can wear 40 half as well as them. At the risk of dating myself by paraphrasing a car commercial from the ‘80s, forty is not your father’s old.
2. … But you’re old enough to realize you’re not as young as you used to be. Last year my middle daughter dared me to do a cartwheel. When I said no, my oldest explained to her sister, “You know, you get to a certain age, and you just can’t do a cartwheel anymore.” Of course I then had to prove that I could do it. After doing a half-decent cartwheel and pulling a hamstring in the process, I realized it’s not that you can’t do a cartwheel at a certain age, it’s that you shouldn’t. I was 38 when I did that, so young and foolish, what did I know? No way would I attempt a cartwheel at 40, I’m above that kind of crap.
Likewise, my youngest knows that she’s too old to ask for “uppy” anymore, too old get away with not eating her vegetables at dinner, and too old to suck her thumb. Well, she knows that last one, but she still does it anyway. Just like I know I’m too old to be on facebook as often as I am.
3. You get to have a big party … I celebrate my birthday every year, but I haven’t had an actual party since I turned 21. But this year, I’m throwing myself a raging dance party (actually my dear friend and I – the same one I had a joint 21st birthday with – are throwing ourselves a joint 40th birthday bash). Because, after throwing parties for my kids for so many years and going to everyone else’s 40th birthday party, it’s finally time to celebrate me, me, ME! (oh and my friend, too ;) )
My daughter also cannot wait for her ballerina-themed birthday party this weekend. If last year’s birthday party is any indication, she will dance around with her friends, shove her cupcake in her mouth, sneak another cupcake after the party, and pass out on the couch with her dress hiked up over her Elmo underwear. My girl knows how to party.
4. …and you can cry if you want to. With a big birthday comes lots of emotions. A big life event can make you feel excited, scared, happy and sad all at once. My daughter has been exhibiting these feelings this week with extra tantrums and increased whining. I betray mine with extra complaining and increased wine.
5. You’re not afraid to ask for what you really want. It’s no secret that my youngest wanted an American Girl doll for her birthday. She told me just about everyday for a year (basically everyday since I tried to trick her with a knock-off doll last year — and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for her meddling older sisters!). Yes, she sounded spoiled and a little greedy making these demands, but it worked, she got what she wanted this year and was not disappointed.
I’ve reached an age now where I’m not going to be coy or passive-aggressively beat around the proverbial bush anymore, only to be disappointed later. If I want a party, I’ll throw one myself rather than drop hints to my husband to plan a surprise party (though if my husband wants to surprise me with something else on my actual birthday, I wouldn’t object. Hint, hint).
6. Your clothes don’t quite fit you like they used to. Since Tuesday my daughter has started inspecting the labels on her clothes and discarding everything that says “3T” because they are “too small” for a four-year-old. As if she suddenly grew two inches Monday night. But, for the most part, she is right: those pants I’ve been letting her wear all spring were not really meant to be Capris. My girl is growing up fast.
I’m not growing up so much as I’m growing out. This process has suddenly accelerated in the past year as I approach my 40th birthday. I used to have a flat stomach and a round butt. Now I have a flattish butt and a round belly. Many pants I used to wear confidently now give me a muffin-top and/or show crack when I bend over. My daughter needs “4T” clothes, I need “FOR-TY” clothes.
There you have it, 6 ways turning 40 is a lot like turning 4. Caught in between Big Kid and Little Kid, or between Old and Young, we 4- and 40-year-olds live in a Limbo-like age. But great things can happen in the space between.
So as I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday this summer, I’m going to take some cues from my recently-turned-four-year-old: I’m going to have my cupcakes and eat them too (and three and four); I’m not going to hide my age in shame but instead proudly shout it out to the world (or at least the blogosphere); I’m going to get a new well-fitting wardrobe and stop pretending I will one day fit into those skinny jeans I used to love two years ago; and I’m going to party my ass off until I pass out. I might even wear an adult diaper to bed after my party to be safe.
Forty: it’s the new four.