My daughter, Cassie, turns 30 today. As much as that is certainly a milestone worthy of celebrating, I will also be celebrating my own milestone today. March 1, 1985 was the day that I first stepped onto the never-ending, always-spinning carousel of Motherhood. Thirty years! And what a long, strange trip it's been.
Nothing can really prepare you for the ride. At times it slows down, like on those interminably long, rainy days when your kids need to be outside because there is only so much finger painting, coloring, dress-up and story time that you can pack into a gloomy, rain-soaked afternoon. Other times, it speeds up into warp speed, like on those family vacations when everyone is happy at the same time and each sunset brings you one day closer to the end of the best week at the beach you could have ever hoped for. Occasionally, it stands still and you can feel your heart pounding in your chest as you wait for your teenager to return home, long past curfew, and you try to tell yourself that she couldn't possibly end up like those girls whose bodies were found in that field just last week. But, most of the time, it keeps spinning at such a steady pace that you don't even notice the movement, until Pomp and Circumstance strikes up and your graduate enters, happy to be moving on from pre-school/kindergarten/high school/college and you are left wondering how it all happened without you feeling the shift in time and space.
At first, the permanence of Motherhood can be daunting. You've always known that you could quit your job, change you hair color, even leave your husband. Not so with Motherhood. You may check-out, but you can never leave. As time goes on, you embrace the permanence. It gives you the time you need to learn the job. On-the-job training is terrifying at first but as you settle into the role, you realize that even if you make a mistake, and you will, you will still be a mother. You can't be fired and you'll never be outsourced. It gives you hope during those turbulent teen years when your child may not like you, but, hopefully, still loves you. Everyone tells you that the good times will come again. And they do.
And if you are really lucky, one day she will join you on the carousel, gently bumping you from the painted ponies to the grand carriages where the grandmothers sit, content to watch their families grow but always ready to bolt into action if needed. Because you're never too old to need to be needed.
So as my daughter celebrates her birthday today, I'll raise a glass to both of us. And once again ponder that age old question.... if I did all the work, why is she getting all the presents?