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A simple tradition to embrace the magic of parenthood

With my dog-eared, highlighted copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting resting on my growing belly, I remember a conversation with my husband about how we needed to be intentional in creating memories as parents. We knew we wanted to mark our baby’s growth on their birthday each year. We decided on a simple photo in the doorway.

We’re not really sure where we got the idea. Maybe it was our take on measuring a kid’s height on the kitchen door frame like some families did when we were growing up? We were certain, though, that we wanted to celebrate each birthday with something simple – a tradition that we could replicate wherever our baby was and that didn’t require gear or props.

The more we talked about it, the more we realized doorways are symbolic and significant. A “threshold” defines much of our life experience. Many critical conversations happen as someone enters with a hello or leaves with a goodbye. We also never know when it’ll be the last time we’ll see someone we love.

So my husband and I decided right then that the threshold - of change, of adventure, of comfort, of home, of leaving, of arriving, and of new beginnings were meaningful to our family. Wherever we are, we ask our kids to stand in the doorway to capture their birthday. And, now, in what seems like a millisecond we are here for Baby #1.

Our firstborn turned 18 in late July and goes to college in a few weeks. As we get ready to say goodbye to send Baby #1 on her journey, we've learned a lot. (Yes, we are doing this tradition for Baby #2. And we now know to protect their necks when they are newborns. Despite all our foibles, she made it!)

Research shows that by the time your kid goes to college more than 85 percent of the time you’ll spend with them is over. You’re responsible for feeding them, clothing them, educating them and then they leave to create their own path. Of course we want them to soar on their own, be independent, and explore, but letting them roam is like watching your heart move outside your body.

Soon she will cross the threshold of her dorm room and into her own life. It will be the first of many doorways we will mostly hear about rather than experience. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

These photos helped me understand the passage of time and forced me - for a fleeting moment each year - to bear witness to my child growing into an adult. All my tumultuous emotions right now are reminders of what it means to love someone so much, what it means to embrace uncertainty, and what it means to have tried your best. This ritual has helped us capture the wonder of it all.

I’m glad we had this tradition. We can’t believe we did it - every birthday on the exact date. Alan Alda said “doorways are where the truth is told.”

If that’s the case, then the truth is that getting to parent and know this brilliant, joyful, creative soul is more than an honor and privilege; it’s magic.


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