I have three daughters, born in three different decades, all with the same father, but very different from each other, if for no other reason than they were each born in essentially separate generations.
Each daughter thinks she had a different upbringing than her sisters, and I suppose that’s true. In fact, the youngest one never lived with the oldest. And the middle one never lived in the house or state where the youngest one has spent most of her life. And we are different parents in our 60s than we were in our 20s, with better resources, but also more challenges, like a pandemic.
On birthdays, the daughters often compare gifts–what they remember of the gifts they got at the same age. It’s mostly done with a good bit of fun. The daughter who is 21 today is sure the youngest has gotten more than she did at her age. She reminds us that she was the prized “baby” of the family for eight years, until she was displaced by her baby sister. As a middle daughter, she sometimes thinks she gets short shrift. Any child in the mix of six might feel the same.
We also have three sons, who, when added to the mix, make it even more interesting. They are all sure the youngest gets away with far more than they ever did.
We laugh about it, because for the most part, our newly minted 21-year-old has a good sense of humor and complaints quickly fizzle in light of the privileged life she knows she’s led.
As I celebrate with this child, I contemplate how 21 is more than just an age at which she can buy her own drinks; 21 is the start of true adulthood, which means the end of childhood in many forms. 21 may or may not be the magical age where one starts to see a clearer sense of direction for their path ahead, but something about it seems magical.
I was 21 when I got pregnant with our first daughter. I felt too young and woefully unprepared for motherhood, so much so that I asked my husband if we could give the baby to our pastor’s son and daughter-in-law, knowing they just lost a child, and that they had already proven themselves to be good parents. He fell to his knees and prayed for God to help me want our baby, his arms around my knees.
I was almost 40 when I got pregnant with our middle daughter, and while she was our 5th child, I still felt taken by surprise (neither pregnancy were part of my plans…), and still somewhat unprepared; parenthood, in many ways, is difficult to prepare for. 21 years later, I think we’ve done okay with her, and most of them, by the grace of God.
We’ve been at this parenting thing for over 38 years. We still have 8 years to go until the youngest turns 21, and then what? Can we turn in our parenting card? Our job will be mostly done, even though our role remains. As a parent, that’s how 21 feels to me; a bit freeing, which always lends a bit of magic to the mix.