This week marks 10 years since I pivoted from the career that I thought would define my life into one that had never even appealed to me.
Ten years of projects, deadlines and life-or-death-assignments. Ten years of overwhelming stress -- and incomprehensible rewards.
This is my anniversary of parenting.
My oldest child turned 10 this week. Double digits. He's a decade old. And that means that as of this week I've been a mother for 10 years.
My son's birthday is his day, no doubt. I spent all day making sure he felt special.
He woke up to a "Happy Birthday" banner hanging in the kitchen and a chocolate chip pancake and bacon breakfast before school. I took him Taco Bell takeout and cupcakes for his class at lunchtime. We went to a video game arcade and had a pizza dinner, and then he got to go fishing for alligators -- and even caught a few.
All of this after we'd already had a birthday party at the zoo. And, of course, there were gifts. Lots of gifts. I admit it, I overspent on guilt gifts to try and make up for the parent who is deployed.
His birthday is the one day of the year when he gets to feel super-duper special, and I wouldn't dare try to take that from him and make it about me.
But I admit that I had to fight the urge all that day to announce to everyone I saw person and to all my contacts online, "YOU GUYS, I'VE BEEN A MOM FOR 10 YEARS!"
You know how long that is?
When I was in the hospital at Fort Bragg giving birth, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was the biggest thing in the news and, as luck would have it, Lynddie England -- the notorious soldier who posed in the Abu Ghraib photos -- was in the room next to mine with her conceived-at-Abu-Ghraib baby. I had to fight every journalistic urge to try and score an interview.
When I brought my little boy home from the hospital, I did it wearing a maroon knit poncho -- because Martha Stewart had just gotten out of prison and had done so wearing a surprisingly chic poncho.
Osama Bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein were still alive. John Kerry was running for president. The tsunami hadn't yet hit southeast Asia and New Orleans residents still thought of "Katrina" as just another female name. Destiny's Child were still together. Britney Spears was in love with K Fed.
The economy was strong. There weren't even hints of the recession to come, just as I didn't have a clue what life would hold for me.
Truthfully, there are many days when I wonder what my life would be like now if I'd just stayed the course with my old job. I'd make more money, no doubt. Have MUCH better hours and benefits, a 401(k) and far more vacation time. And I wouldn't have these stretch marks or this paunchy belly.
But I also wouldn't have this macaroni necklace.
Or a habit of checking every bathroom before guests arrive just to make sure one of my subordinates didn't forget to flush.
And I certainly wouldn't have a funny, sweet, smart son who jumps up and down and yells "Best. Birthday. Ever!" And he says it every year.
It seems fitting to celebrate that I've made it through parenting, and mostly solo parenting, for a decade. The kids are alive and intact. They even seem to even be -- dare I jinx it? -- thriving.
I'm not suggesting that our kids' birthdays should be days to celebrate ourselves, but I do think that some time, maybe late at night after they're asleep, we owe ourselves at least a pat on the back and a glass of wine.