You’re supposed to get emotional at funerals and weddings. I do, but I also get emotional at two kinds of events that I don’t quite think, logically, I ought to: series finales and my kids birthdays.
Man, I hate series finales. To be clear, I don’t give a hoot when terrible television shows like, say, Joey or Teen Mom conclude. But when I like television shows, I watch them religiously; when those shows end, I inevitably feel teary-eyed. Not because I won’t get to watch the show anymore—indeed, in the case of shows like ER or Lost, finales come as more of a relief than anything else. Rather, it’s because, for whatever reason, finales are forever linked in my mind to the passage of time and growing older.
Lost “only” ran for six years, from 2004 to 2010. When it debuted, I lived in a two-bedroom condo in Culver City, California with my wife. By the time it concluded, I lived in New Jersey with my wife and two kids. I started watching House three jobs ago, and it’s still running.
Series end. Life continues. It moves fast.
Today was my daughter Sierra’s third birthday. At the end of October, her big sister Anya turned five. Their brother Liam won’t turn one until February of next year. Lauren and I are each 31.
I don’t get too emotional on my own birthday, though I definitely appreciate that birthdays are less awesome as you get older. I mean, 31 sounds old. I don’t feel especially old, besides the fact that standing up takes more energy than I remember, I wake up tired, and I keep finding new places to grow hair.
But on my kids’ birthdays, emotions go nutty. There’s a couple different elements at play. At my kids’ ages, they still need disciplining every single day. That’s not to say we hand out punishments day in and day out, but rather that we’re actively coaching behavior all day long—eating nicely, speaking politely, acting respectfully, being patient. I’m guessing that incessant need decreases a bit as the kids get older. But I hate to talk about consequences with my kids on their birthdays; if I say that failure to talk nicely might result in your failing to earn your bedtime story, I need to mean that, and I don’t want to take away your story on your birthday. Not even a little.
That’s a minor piece of it, though. More important to me is making sure your birthday is super fun. Sierra cried once today (over something of truly no consequence, of course), and it broke my heart. I don’t ever want my kids to feel sad, of course, but especially not on their birthdays! Birthdays, especially for kids, should be special and overwhelmingly happy. Anything less is unacceptable in my book.
But, of course, the biggest piece of the birthday emotion is, unsurprisingly, the same thing that gets me about series finales. My kids keep getting older. They refuse to stop. I don’t want them to stop; each new age I’ve experienced thus far is filled with wonderment and awesome developments. My five year old reads, constantly, for pleasure. My three year old is full of love and affection, and expresses it in almost hilariously mature ways. My nine-month-old… Well, he’s nine months old. He smiles a lot. That’s nice.
And they all keep aging. Which means I keep aging. Birthdays remind me that none of us is getting any younger, and that one day they’ll move out, talk to me less often, rely on me less often. And because I’m a sick puppy, I also think about how I won’t get to know my kids for their whole lives, and how that’s just the most disappointing and depressing fact of life that I can think of.
My kids are truly some of the most wonderful people I know. They all consistently get better with age. I welcome their aging. I just dread it, too.