Yep. I turned 30 years old this summer.
The birthday week was rejuvenating and lovely, spent on Whidbey Island. It included a trip to Sequim, WA and the lavender farm there where I feel most like a God-made, God-fearing creature than I do anywhere else on the planet. There's just something about it for me that is like medicine, potion, gateway, and dream all at the same time. The smell and view permeate my whole self with such a sense of peace, and the droning, cuddly bees are like kindred workers. I have not yet been able to do this, (because the chidren, while adding to the adorableness of the whole scene, do not find it as placating as I do) but I am eagerly awaiting the day that I can spend a whole afternoon with a pitcher of their lavender lemonade on the porch swing just breathing and absorbing the place one eyeful after another.
My thirtieth year, as written about earlier, was the hardest one so far with many days that I am glad do not have to be lived again. But, I'd like to believe, and I think it's fair to do so, that my children probably thought it the best one yet in many ways. I'm sure they would all cite the time on the beach at Whidbey, swinging driftwood swords and wielding daddy-made bows and arrows, as their favorite. So, that's a blessing. Hazel revealed her personality- full of mother-hen, strong opinions, keen observation, an eagerness to please (as long as it pleases her too), willingness to believe, love of stories and songs- and the fact that her hair is curly, her eyes are indeed blue, and her dimpled cheek's willing to stick around after babyhood leaves her. What a treasure she is to me. Becoming a thirty year old woman in the company of a fresh, very young girl is a precious experience. I let myself choose, ask for and receive a beautiful, locally made, large blue topaz ring as a Third Decade's Day gift, and I mostly chose it because topaz is Hazel's birth stone. I dream of the day that I give it to her. Maybe on her thirtieth birthday, though it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to wait that long to make the present.
I know that 30 is a young age- especially now that most people in my part of the world are not married and do not have children yet and may still not even be thinking of tethering themselves to anyone or anything, but I do feel turning 30 is an accomplishment. Being married and child-bearing (with some rapidity) "young" is not valued by my culture, but I value them immensely and am proud that they are my best achievements at this point. (I could make a whole argument that motherhood and commited marriage in general are not valued by my culture, but I don't think that would serve anyone and just makes me feel bad inside. In our house, we encourage each other to not do things that make others feel bad inside.) From the perspective of the twenties, 30 feels like you are starting to get old. I know that the perspective of the forties and beyond chuckles at that notion, but try to remember how you felt when you turned thirty. I feel about thirty the way I felt about 10: FINALLY! 30 feels like a respectable number, and I like how it feels very much.
Maybe I like thirty, too, because I feel that it's at this time that I should be enjoying some sort of commencement ceremony celebrating my 10 years of early-childhood parenting experience. And, people, I took the intensive track! 10 years worth of life with children ages 0-5 in only 5 years. Here's my math: Ezra (5) + Ivo (>3) + Hazel ( almost 2) = 10. Now, I don't have any *other* fancy degrees ('cept for my BA in BA), but I'm pretty sure ten years of study lands me in the doctorate range. Funny thing, though: As I have noticed among my more humble and respectable colleagues with doctoral degrees, the more you study a subject the more you realize you need to learn. My years of intense, immersive study in the young lives of Brendan and Jessica's progeny have shown me that for every mystery I unlock, another is waiting. For every hurdle completed, there are higher ones (with harder falls) still ahead. For every "system" (HAHAHA, "parenting system" is one of the funniest jokes I've ever heard) that works, there is an exception to the rule waiting to disprove all my research.
People ask me questions regularly about parenting- looking for some normalization and reassurance more that anything because I'm not sure our operation is convincing anyone that we have everything figured out- and, truly, most of the time I cannot remember how in the world we got through teething/sleeplessness/fevers/stomach flus/nap refusal/weaning/formula making/breastfeeding/nursery screaming/etc., but I do remember that it mostly worked out fine and that my children seem to love us. I sort of hate giving advice. So much of it just alienates people. That said, I do love to make people feel like they aren't alone, that parenting is difficult, respectable, worthwhile and valuable, and that God loves them and their children. I have a handful of ideas and experience with things too, and when I feel like that advice is going to do more help than harm I may hand it out. I remember staring longingly into the faces of my older female friends, desperate for them to give me solutions and absolution that I wasn't ruining my babies. I never got the specifics that I craved, and now I see why. It's more a game of praying, loving, and waiting than it is one of finding the right set of steps. I think that we moms need to be ok with not knowing exactly what to do all the time but moving forward with confidence that we can love our kids anyway and pray for the ability to be consistent. I sure hope that I can be an encourager. That is what I really want to do with my experiences of the last five+ years (more if you count pregnancies and miscarriage). Children can be immensely enjoyable. I appreciate the move toward more truth in advertising from one mom to another, of being honest about our hard days and the difficulties, but I do worry that we aren't willing enough to talk about the value and rewards. They coexist, you know: stuggle and deep satisfaction.
To sum up these musings, here is who I see myself as at thirty years old:
A mother-woman, sick, but hopeful, still needing and claiming a Savior, still striving to do right for my family, and longing for my next trip to the lavender farm in high bloom with a great piece of jewelry on my finger- my beautiful, muddy children in tow.