THE BLOG

The Truth About Turning 40

Here I am, 40 today. And I don't feel all that old. There are days I do, of course. You know, when I try to get up too quickly from playing on the floor with my kids. Or when I catch my reflection in the mirror and see someone else's spotted, veiny legs where mine used to be. Or when I start spouting off unsolicited advice to people who are actually the age I like to think I am.
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Celebrating milestone birthday
Celebrating milestone birthday

As a kid, I didn't give much thought to getting old. Older, yes. I mean you had to reach a certain age to be in the Olympics and go to the Air Force Academy. (Yes, I really wanted to do both of those things at one point in my life, which, if you know me, just goes to show how dramatically life and goals can change in a matter of years...) But it wasn't until I was about eleven years old and saw a huge sign hanging over the pool at a swim meet that read, "Lordy, Lordy (my friend's mom) is 40!" that it hit me. Wow. 40. She's, like, old.

But here I am, 40 today. And I don't feel all that old. There are days I do, of course. You know, when I try to get up too quickly from playing on the floor with my kids. Or when I catch my reflection in the mirror and see someone else's spotted, veiny legs where mine used to be. Or when I start spouting off unsolicited advice to people who are actually the age I like to think I am.

But believe it or not, I haven't really been dreading 40. I've been looking at it as coming home. There's a peace that comes with reaching a certain age, I'm finding.

For me, being 40 is knowing...

...while some of my body parts hang lower than they used to, my head is held a bit higher. As my skin has stretched, I've become a bit more comfortable in it. I feel good about the choices I've made, the little people I'm raising, and the love surrounding me.

...as the lines on my face grow deeper, my relationships do as well. Each moment of awe, each belly laugh has made its mark on my face and in my heart -- and I wouldn't erase a single one.

...it's time to graciously give up my dream of being awarded a glorious, one-of-a-kind superhero cape. Having the strength to build a respectable career, a lovely house, and a lively family is enough. Even with the realization that I can't seem to make all of them thrive at the same time.

...it's a gift to see the world through 5-year-old, 7-year-old, and 10-year-old eyes. I'm doing my best to teach my kids as much as they're teaching me -- all while realizing that sometimes my parents actually didn't know better.

...that though a huge number of hours are spent driving my kids around town, that time with them gives me a chance to connect -- sometimes in a heartfelt conversation about what went wrong at school, sometimes in a group sing-a-long to the latest Justin Timberlake hit. Either way, I usually I need it more than they do.

...sometimes we have to say goodbye to friends and parents way too soon. I've watched people I adore lay parents, spouses, and even children to rest. And with each life lost, I'm reminded that our days aren't measured in accomplishments, or even years, but in our ability to make people feel like they really matter.

...that I absolutely do not cherish every moment in life, but I absolutely do look for the moments to cherish.

...there's no cover charge or dress code for the best dance floors.

...I can't please everybody, but I can be kind to everybody. And I can ask for forgiveness when I slip up.

...as grateful as I am for the way technology connects me to friends I don't see often enough, nothing can replace time spent alongside the people I've adored, learned from, and laughed with through the years.

...years gone by don't just make you older, they make you more. More capable, more shake-it-off-able, more I've-got-this-able. And, of course, more likely to set the house on fire when your loved ones sing happy birthday.

Amy Heinz is a San Francisco Bay Area mom of three and the writer behind Using Our Words -- a parenting blog filled with lessons she's learned (usually the hard way), laughs she's enjoyed (mostly at her own expense), and tears she's shed (this mama's got heart). Join in all her fun on Facebook.