What I Want My Daughter to Know About Getting Older

Looking into the mirror, we see a reflection beyond our own features. With each passing year, I perceive a stronger presence of my mother and, undeniably, she had aspects of my grandmother. Once my daughter was born, I found comfort in studying the shape of her eyes, lips, cheeks, nose and chin, all the way down to her toes. How uncanny it is to pass a genetic history on to your child. In time, she responded by studying my face and body, too. She hugged, bit, pinched, pulled, and slapped in wonderment, and too often, in giggles. Even now, at four, our daughter cannot see the appearance of age on our faces. We are “my daddy” and “my mommy,” strong figures in her life, and the ones whose super hugs and kisses give her peace of mind. We have already projected the time difference between her age and ours into the decades to come. Knowing the possible difficulties of raising a child as older parents, as well as the rewards, we hope she will be able to gain enough wisdom to live a prosperous, happy, and long life.

In her teens and 20s, she will gain understanding about her strengths and weaknesses, define future ambitions, continue to learn the rules of friendships and relationships, and anticipate turning one year older. I want my daughter to know that being young often creates a feeling of invincibility. It’s so easy to want to take incredible risks, push the limits of gravity, and be part of a daring crowd. Live, dear daughter, but, please, be careful!

Dear daughter, in knowing a grandfather, grandmother, or aunt personally, you are seeing a slight window into your own future. Great supple skin, beautiful teeth and hair, and soft feet will require daily attention and maintaining annual doctor and bi-annual dentist visits. Caring for your body in youth and throughout your life will be a blessing in later years. Our family lifestyle has shown you the value of gardening and eating healthily, but there’s more to it than a balanced diet, exercise, wearing a hat in the summer, and even comfortable shoes. Living well includes healthy relationships and friendships, minimal stress, sleeping well, smiling, singing and laughing, too. We will spend the next five decades talking about our health and making comparisons and decisions, exchanging nutritious recipes and discussing natural skin care products.

By the time you reach your 30s, there may any number of health problems to discuss. In knowing your family history, it is important to respond when your body provides clues that something may be wrong. In my mid-twenties, I made the mistake of ignoring symptoms. At age 30, with great relief, I did not receive the diagnosis of cancer. With medical advancements, I hope you will not struggle with infertility or pregnancy, cancers, or menopause, to name a few.

The cycle of life continues, and witnessing hardship in those late years helps you to understand and appreciate what it means to be healthy and strong. It is true that life can resemble infancy in some aspects. It will be difficult to watch Daddy and me become challenged by our age, and the transition may happen overnight. Instead of becoming stressed, I ask that you recall your own childhood and respond in kind. With patience, we answered repeated questions, waited while you pondered over decisions about what to wear or eat, and celebrated every milestone that was connected to your becoming self-sufficient. We promise to have documentation in place and openly talk about our wishes in old age, so, you, dear daughter, will not have to worry.

Throughout your life, you will find contentment in having a wonderful spouse who can stand beside you in days of great happiness and sorrow. He will be a blessing in those retired years. Similar to the gift of motherhood, the outpouring of love from your grandchildren will add years, months, days and seconds to your life. While social interaction will be vitally important to your health, you may find great contentment in prayer, books, wandering in your gardens and enjoying the peace of your surroundings. With happiness, laughter, good company, and health, you, dear daughter, will live to see a great number of birthdays.