Sunday, January 10, 2010
Big, big birthday
It was just a regular Tuesday. The first Tuesday of the new decade, but otherwise it should’ve just been another page to turn on my calendar. But in my house, and in my heart, it was so much more. My oldest child, my only daughter, became a legal adult on Tuesday. I’m down to having just three ‘children’ in my house.
My husband comes from a family of five boys, so when we first started chatting about starting our family I had just one request, “give me a girl up front then you can have all the boys you want.” I was pretty sure fate would be on my side and the Berna family would be turned upside down with all the granddaughters we would bring to the mix.
I have nothing against boys. For the most part I got along well with my own brothers. But the idea of having daughters, who I would dress in sun dresses and Mary Janes, carefully tying big bows in their neatly gathered pig tales, seemed very appealing. Plus, I am a girl. I understand how they tick. It seemed like a no brainer that I would raise a few of them.
Just after my daughter’s first birthday, we introduced her to her new brother. Our doctor held up our newborn son in the delivery room and announced, “you now have the million dollar family - a girl and a boy!”
When you put it that way, I was just fine with it. It would be fun to see what one boy was like. We planned to have four children so I was sure my other daughters would arrive eventually. But then four years later Isaac arrived. Four years after that I was pregnant again and knew for a fact we would end on the female variety.
Jeff and I dragged our daughter and two sons to the six month ultrasound to see the first pictures of their new little sister. The technician rolled her wand back and forth across my belly until she was completely sure, then announced, “It’s a BOY!” We were all startled. Isaac went home angry at the technician, confident she had changed his sister to a brother. He liked being the youngest boy and didn’t want to give up his place in the family. It took some mental adjustments but from that day on I knew what my answer would be. For the rest of my life, when someone asked me, “how many kids do you have?” I would answer, “A daughter and three sons.”
My announcement to Jeff, about having one daughter then having all the sons he could ever want, had come to pass. The ironic thing was, he didn’t have a preference. In every pregnancy he was just thrilled to be adding to our family and never expressed a need to have a house full of boys. I suppose it had something to do with those strong male Berna genes. Only one of his brothers’ wives has given birth to a girl. And she had two sons before that daughter arrived. My daughter is one of two sacred Berna girls.
And she is sacred to me because she helps balance out the hormones in this house full of males. She gives me an excuse to go down the hair accessories aisle at Target. She allows me to shop in the feminine sections of department stores. She rolls her eyes with me when her dad and brothers do silly boy things, like wrestle on the king size bed and throw endless Nerf darts at each other.
But now she’s eighteen. She grew up way too fast. She’s making big plans about moving out of our house once the graduation parties are over. She’s turned into this amazing young woman who is confident and independent. She’s everything I ever wanted in a daughter and I know it’s a good thing that I can send her out in the world knowing she will hold her own just fine.
So why does it hurt my heart so much? I want her to grab life by the tail and swing it around a few times. I want for her all the fun I found in my first year at college, away from home and on my own for the first time. All of that has to happen with her not in my house anymore, not under my wing, not under my care.
Our household will feel very different next year. We will have just three boys around the table when dinnertime comes. There will still be dirty socks laying all over the house and nerf darts in every dust pan. The laundry will not let up. I will forever be sorting sweat pants and hoodies into piles on my bed. Jeff will have company as he hikes through the woods and skis down the mountain trails. But my girl will be missing.
I have to start now, getting ready for life to change. She’s eighteen now. She’s an adult, on the brink of finding her adult life. She can vote in every election and buy her own lottery tickets. She will eventually get a car loan in her own name and sign a lease for her own apartment. And as she’s off finding her own way I will be home, ready to back her up when the phone call comes. Ready to be her encourager when life beats her up a bit.
Because she’s my girl. My only girl.
The one I asked for so many years ago.