According to society, I have a big birthday coming up. I’m turning 50. Our family doesn’t go too crazy over birthdays. We certainly aren’t of the ilk who celebrate a “birthday-week” or “birth-month.” These are the same people who share pet birthdays on social media. You know who you are.
My birthday is in late November, which means the Thanksgiving holiday usually gobbles it up. It’s kind of nice because there are lots of pre-ordained activities, but it always squashes any attempts to plan a party. The tradition for birthdays in my family was to go out to the same Mexican restaurant (all I really want in life is for the Gonzalez family to serve me one more plate of tacos at La Fonda). This was before the tradition of interrupting the work of everyone’s server to sing happy birthday to a total stranger. When did that start and how do we get it to stop?
A Parent at 40
As an adult, I like that my birthday is a low-key affair. My 40th was interesting. We took our two young kids to California to visit family. We decided to take advantage of a free-on-your-birthday ferry ride to Catalina Island. When we hit traffic on PCH, we almost missed our boat with our family of four, plus my dad and his wife crammed into a rented Dodge Journey.
Our baby daughter could sense the tension in the air and began crying intensely, only stopping to barf curdled milk into her car seat. I got us lost in the industrial side of the port among the shipping containers and cranes. It looked like a place where a high speed chase in CHiPs would end in a series of explosions. Help me, Ponch!
My dad was enjoying watching his youngest child manage a family travel crisis. While I hoped a giant magnet would pick the car up and drop us in a crusher, he got out of the vehicle to escape the stench of spoiled dairy, and scurried up a rocky embankment to see if he could see our boat. By the time the sun set on Avalon, we had a good laugh about it, and some great Mexican food. (I’m not lying when I tell you we saw Eric Estrada in the airport going home.)
Parenting has a way of aging us beyond the steady passage of time. I was 36 years old before I became a father. I had dark brown hair back then.
A Parent at 50
Now, my kids ask questions like, “What color was your hair before it turned gray?”
My wife is five years younger than me, which makes her eternally immune from being considered old in our house.
Our 13-year-old is beginning to get to the point where he thinks his old man is out of touch. He got in the car the other day and I was already listening to some music he likes. He said, “You were listening to Green Day,” as if he caught me wearing Crocs and a hoodie like half his friends. How do I tell him that I was 16 when they released their first record? Green Day is to him what Perry Como was to me when I was his age. Perry Como, kid!
I have a few good years left in me. Sure, I’m going out for a free birthday dinner for my 50th (please don’t sing in any language), and I plan to be in bed by 10 o’clock. But I’m not to the point where the height of my socks makes me look confused or my slang is offensive at the dinner table. But kids, your friends are around a lot and I can act old in the worst way if you aren’t nice to me.