I turned 40 recently and marked the occasion with two great dinners (why only have one) and great friends and family. My kids sang happy birthday to me (well, one sang, the other clapped). It felt like being admitted to a club. I think I walk a little taller now.
There are many things I wish I knew about my parents when they were turning 40. Somewhere we have a picture of my dad in front of a tree in Sodus, NY where I was born and I think he was 40. He was wearing his collar (priest collar) and an awkward smile. He got cheekier with age. And more confident. But I don’t think he was there yet at 40. I vaguely remember a surprise party for my mother when she turned 40. We went to a local restaurant and all of my parents’ friends started showing up. I think she had a great time. We didn’t do enough of those things for her growing up.
But what were they thinking about? What was their life like? That is what I want to know.
So what will I say to my kids when they ask about turning 40? I will say:
- That I felt younger than I expected to feel.
- That it became clearer than ever that wasting time is silly. And that includes on books that you don’t like, jobs you don’t love and people who bring you down. However, sometimes it makes sense to push through the hard stuff or just focus on what certain things give you rather than what they take from you. Perspective is everything.
- That more than ever I feel the need for parents.
- And that it’s really great to be 40 and have little kids because you realize that they are just at the beginning of their journey, and you can go along for so much of the ride.
- That I don’t trust people who prefer Miracle Whip.
- That exercise on a regular basis actually is a necessity. At 40 my metabolism is no longer what it was and whammo! Ten pounds.
- But that I don’t care about that now as much now as I did when I was 30.
- That things that used to be easy – maintaining friendships – are now harder but are just as necessary and worth the effort.
- That I wish I had asked my dad more questions. And I am glad I can still ask my mom lots of questions.
- Start saving early. Even a dollar a week. Save save save.
- That I wish I knew a foreign language or how to play chess. And that I am glad I can still learn a foreign language and how to play chess.
- That I still have insecurities and something tells me they don’t go away. But I do have a greater sense of how to be OK.
- I spent my 20s in suits, my 30s in black pants and button downs, and now my 40s in jeans. This says a lot about career progress.
- Do not EVER go into an airplane bathroom without shoes.
- That we, your father and I, struggle daily with city/suburbs…city/suburbs.
- We worry every day that we are not doing enough for you kids, and that parenting is the most fragile exercise we’ve ever tackled.
- That women who only talk about clothes and furniture are boring and Avery, do not be afraid to find other friends.
- I wish I could shake my 20 year old self out of doing things (jobs) for superficial reasons.
- That if a guy calls it means he likes you. Period.
- Kids can be really mean and I hope and pray neither of you are That Kid. That Mean Kid.
- That I don’t like people who are mean to waiters and waitresses. And that I always over-tip cabdrivers and delivery guys.
- That two nights ago your father and I stayed up too late playing backgammon and drinking wine and we love nights like that. We are 1-1 BTW.
- That on most nights one of us is home earlier than the other, and that we don’t spend enough weeknights together at the dinner table.
- That I still don’t have all the answers and in fact had more questions. Bono (all hail) was right when he said “The more you see, the less you know.” The trick is being excited about that.
And what I REALLY hope is that we are reading this together when your father and I are 80, or 90! As we play a game of chess and speak in foreign languages.