Nearing 40 and Getting Younger on the Way

rlw bnw My favorite niece turned eleven this year. It’s actually a bit hard to believe. Not having children of my own, other people’s kids (OPKs) are just about the only way that I can mark and keep up with my own age anymore. To me, I am perpetually about 24 years old. I feel mature and old enough to be a full-fledged adult, but in no way do I feel “middle-aged” or nearing forty. Ever.

Well…Except when it comes to my niece. I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. I was in my twenties and absolutely thrilled that my older brother’s wife was expecting their first child. I remember eagerly awaiting the phone call from several states away that would confirm my niece’s safe arrival. I still well up with the emotion I felt when I answered my cell phone and heard an infant’s cry followed by my brother’s voice saying, “You’re an auntie! You have a beautiful niece.” For many years, that was my seminal moment of adulthood; my brother was somebody’s father (which still blows my mind sometimes) and I was a proud new auntie.

Photographs, phone calls and frequent flyer miles began to shape my relationship with my niece in the coming years. She grew in leaps and bounds while I pretty much looked and felt the same as always (aside from a few hair don’ts and some weight changes). As my niece began to walk and talk, I still felt youthful and exuberant; after all, a 24-yar-old woman with a two or three-year-old child is plausible, right?

Soon came preschool and eventually kindergarten as well as an expanded vocabulary on her part. I can vividly recall the moment when my niece let me know that I was not as young in her eyes as I might have thought I was. My then-fiancé (thankfully now my ex-husband) and I were visiting when my niece looked me squarely in the eye and asked, “Noo-noo” (Just accept it as a cute pet name and keep it moving, thanks.), when are you going to get married?” In an attempt to be funny I responded, “I’ll get married when you get married.” I had never seen such a look of utter horror on a five-year-old child’s face before and she quickly exclaimed, “But you’re OLD, Noo-noo! You’ll be DEAD by then!”

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Bah Humbug…

tanya f I made a horrible discovery today that shook me to my core – Christmas ain’t what it used to be.

The startling revelation came today when I was at my youngster’s school assembly and the president of the PTO talked to the kids about the Santa Workshop that was coming up next week.  For those of you who have never experienced Satan’s Workshop (oops – typo), it’s a money making (shakedown) opportunity for the PTA/PTO to set up the school’s library or cafeteria with little cheap (in quality) but overpriced  “Happy Meal” type gifts with a Santa’s elf workshop theme.  Kids compete with their friends to buy gifts for family members.  I have worked one of these Santa Workshops and I have seen children have mini meltdowns because they weren’t given enough money to buy ALL the kids in their class a gift.  I even witnessed a kid run a tab and the PTO members let them! “Anything to raise money for the school” was the theme.  I knew the parent who had to pay the $55 tab and she was NOT happy.  Sorry, I digress.  I was thinking about how I didn’t want my kid to participate this year because it was so catty.  Then my mind started drifting to when I was in grammar school and we made Christmas gifts in art classes.

Christmas was magical and wonderful and sacred.  I traveled back to a time where I made Christmas ornaments & gifts; friends received homemade Christmas cards; popcorn garland on the tree; cookies, cakes and pies made “from scratch”; caroling in the neighborhood; watching the Christmas specials on TV together while sipping hot chocolate; and family events every weekend leading up to Christmas day.  There was always the “Santa Factor” but there was also great emphasis on the Birth of Jesus, showing Christ-like cheer and reconnecting with family.  I don’t feel that anymore. I feel pressure to compete with other parents who have socked away money since the previous Christmas to buy their kids the biggest, most expensive high tech gifts that are new on the market in December.  When did the idea of “give from the heart” become “break the m****r f*****g bank?”  Disney Channel & Nickelodeon have toy commercials back to back and every toy is a MUST HAVE for my daughters.  Christmas decorations go up right after Halloween decorations come down.   Poor Thanksgiving gets the short end of the stick. As quickly as it comes, it’s forgotten about because of the exhaust fumes of Black Friday and the countdown to shopping days before Christmas.

I know times were different in the 70s & 80s – they were simpler with A LOT less technology.  But at what point did Christmas become so commercial and one dimensional?  Is it because I’m forty now and my view of the world has become cynical and jaded?  Is there really no feeling of peace, joy, love and good will to all men?  Times have changed and so have I, but this is one time I wish I was wrong.


Tanya’s an “exceptional military wife and extraordinary mother of two who has rediscovered life, love and a new reality” at age forty.  She’s a friend and frequent contributor to Women at Forty.