Step One: Be born.
This may be the easiest step for the birthee, even if it’s not for the birther.
There had been a few years of wondering why our friends were having babies and we weren’t. It had been nine months of constant nausea (and its friend, Chuck), six months of gestational diabetes, three months of preeclampsia, one month of strict bedrest, and 16 hours of induced labor to get to the birth of our first child, Bekah.
She never remembered that journey, for her, she simply has always been.
Step Two: Have caring people hold you.
Again, for the birthday girl, this was pretty easy.
She was held when she wanted to be held, fed when she was hungry, changed when she was messy, and kept safe without her knowledge that she needed safekeeping.
Again, not so easy for first-time parents who had limited experience with tiny, helpless children. It felt like she came to us as seven pounds of questionable decision-making. For her, though, she asked for things in a language we barely understood as we held her as closely and as safely as we knew how.
Step Three: Dazzle, delight and develop.
Things get a little tougher here for our birthday girl.
She has to challenge herself, push herself, fail, and succeed. Repeat.
It really is hard to tell who has the tougher job at this point. Everything is new and all three of us had to be ready for the first time she stood (and fell), the first time she walked (and fell) and every other thing she tried.
Watching your child fail; watching your child learn how to stand up for herself and master skills that she will use for her entire lifetime with the least amount of parental involvement as possible is one of the hardest things to do as a parent.
Watching your child succeed at anything from walking to navigating middle school bullies? That’s the best.
The very best.
Step Four: Make your own choices.
This is a hard-learned skill for anyone.
Our girl progressed from the easy ones, “I really don’t like anything with cheese on it,” to the more complex, “I like reading, embroidery, Marvel movies, and Merida is my favorite Disney princess” and “I only like to wear rings on my pointer finger and I don’t care that no one else I know does.”
She chooses her friends, her activities, and what time to go to bed.
As she neared the 21 milestone the choices were whoppers — where to go to college, what to study, how to earn and budget her own money, how to stay healthy and safe. Each decision that she made was one less that we, her parents, made for her.
On the surface, this should make it a parental cake walk .. but no. Not at all.
For 21 years we’ve guided and raised her. For 21 years we’ve gotten to know her quirks and gifts and love her more for each of them and her 21st birthday was a celebration of all of that.
But there was one more step we wanted to make How do you put 21 years of life into a gift? A thing?
Then, I looked down.
On my hand, as it is every day, is an amethyst ring that my parents gave me on my 40th birthday. I wear it with my wedding band to signify not only the family I helped create, but the one that raised me.
On her 21st birthday, after the dinner and the cake, after the memories and the celebration, she opened the small, black box and slipped three rings onto her pointer finger — one with her birthstone and two with ours.