For my girls

The American Cancer Society, a sometimes sponsor of this website, recently asked if I’d bring attention to a campaign they are running called More Birthdays which is basically what it sounds like: doing what we can (finding cures, eating healthier, etc.) in an effort to live longer, to see more birthdays. And since today is Leta’s birthday, I thought I’d share with you some conversations I’ve had with myself (not with the voices in my head, no, not yet) about getting older and what it means as a parent.

I know that in ten years I’m going to want to smack myself for saying this, but I cannot believe I’m thirty-five years old. That number is outrageous to me because the last ten years seem to have passed in a blinding flash. I still feel like I’m in my early twenties and am only reminded that I’m not when I see what people in their early twenties are wearing.

Like, ew. Or, please pull up your damn pants.

But then there are also the physical reminders: wrinkles around my eyes, the time it takes to recover from a hangover, how many times I throw my back out in a year (see the four trips I’ve taken to the chiropractor in the last month).

And, of course, the skin cancer. Here is my yearly reminder to you to wear sunscreen. No, really. Go put some on. Now.

A year ago after I stopped breastfeeding Marlo I dedicated myself to an exercise regimen and changed the way I was eating. I cut out almost all processed food and started spending most of my time when at the grocery store in the produce section. I signed up with a trainer and scheduled workouts for five days a week. The change in my body and mind, especially given the stress of the last year, has made it effortless to stick to this new way of life.

And that’s what it is: a new way of life.

I’m not getting any younger. The metabolism of my youth that had my peers calling me Skeletor and Bones Brigade has slowed noticeably. So, yes, part of this is motivated by vanity, but more importantly, I decided that I wanted my kids to see me living to my fullest (while at the same time not repeating a lot of what comes out of my mouth when I’m frustrated, STILL WORKING ON THAT PART).

Leta has already started asking why I go to the gym so much.

“Because it makes me feel good.”

“Because it makes me stronger.”

“Because you and your sister aren’t getting any lighter, and I rather enjoy giving you those piggy-back rides to bed.”

She’s watching and taking in everything we do now (which means I can’t watch political news shows when she’s in the room because of my involuntary outbursts). She’s whip smart, and we are now at that parenting stage where we have to exercise our better selves so that she can develop her better self.

You always hope your kid is going to take the manners and ideals you’ve tried to teach her and use them when you’re not watching, and recently we learned that Leta stuck up for a kid in her class when he was being taunted by an older boy. I don’t know if I’ve experienced a prouder moment as a parent, and I wasn’t even there. Maybe that’s why.

In the same way I hope she learns to love exercise, to love good food. I hope she sees how her father and I try to work through our problems productively, and that going to therapy isn’t a sign of weakness but of a willingness to live a better life. I hope she wakes up every morning when I’m not there and puts on a moisturizer with an SPF of at least 15.

And I hope I’m healthy enough to be there so that she can call and tell me about it.