Ebbs-cuse me, Am I Growing Old?
“OK, darling, I’ll pick you up at ten.” So said I in yet another chat message to dearest daughter yesterday afternoon. Closing the jaunty little messaging app on my phone – having made sure to include plenty of smileys, emoticons, kisses and hip textences lest I appear as uncool as I suspect I actually am – I was suddenly struck by the reverse-level life I am leading these days. Apologies for the terminology, but if you were currently house-hunting in a seaside town where every house is reverse-level living, you’d be regurgitating that guff as if it is normal too.
So; reverse-level, topsy-turvy, upside-down or plain tits up; whatever you want to call it, that’s what life has become. I’m not sure I’m enjoying this new “normal” – at the very least I’m resisting it inwardly so as not to appear to be growing old. Old? Me? Noooooo! *runs screaming for the nearest wine bar*
But it may unfortunately be true. I can’t fight the fact that my own mis-spent youth has been superseded by that of the kids now. When did it become the norm for the kids to be out later than the parents? How has it happened that I sit wistfully yearning for jim-jams and Horlicks yet denied, having instead to stay fully clothed, some form of alert and ready to fire up the old jalopy at a moment’s notice? When did my own weekends become slaves to my teenagers’ social lives?
I’ll be honest – after a day at work I struggle with anything much past 11PM. Living in a quiet Sussex village means not much goes on during a weekday evening in the depths of winter except a spot of dull TV and a nose around Twitter before bath and bed call me skywards. Throbbing metropolis? No, sir. Sometimes a distant neighbour trips over a wheelie bin and curses loudly, which is always amusing. Or a teen hidden in the dark smoking an illicit fag has his foot run over by a British Gas van in next door’s driveway lighting up the windows in nearby houses and requiring an ambulance. Very funny and completely true. But generally things are quiet in the vicinity after 9ish. Hence, having to hold my eyelids open with tweezers and sellotape so I don’t fall asleep open-mouthed and forget to collect a kid from some teenage hang-out at midnight is, I’ll admit, a bit of a struggle. (Tip: place a cocktail stick or two vertically in your cleavage whilst watching TV. Secure in place with more sellotape. That way if you begin to nod off, a sharp poke in the schnozzle will wake you up instantly. And – bonus – you get a free chest wax, which can only be a good thing.)
Have I grown old then? Did it creep up on me unawares like a stealthy stoat? Am I ready for botox, tight perms and a 6 week cruise around Croatia? Doomed to a Val Doonican soundtrack in the car and layers of chunky knits? Lord save me!
I don’t think I’m old yet per se. Not in my soul, for sure. I am hoping that this is just the natural progression of things. The ebb and flow, the tidal rhythm of life. My tide is out now (for out, read “I am temporarily dead”) while my fledglings spread their wings and explore their independence. I am, for now, not Sarah the Party Animal who likes one too many cuba libres and to dance inappropriately on tables but Sarah The Mother, a four-wheeled Moses basket driver that fetches and carries them, bears them safely home, never fails to be there when required. Albeit grumpy and tired with rising chest welts and spike marks on the end of my nose.
I have resisted the mother label, if I’m honest, never quite thought of myself that way. Mum is OK, I can do Mum. Mum is a matey sort of name that implies nurturing in a friendly haphazard way. A muddling through Mum. Occasionally an absent-for-an-altogether-irresponsible-amount-of-time-while-sailing type of Mum. Relaxed is, and will always be, my parenting style. We each have our own. But “mother”? No. That’s reserved for people much more responsible and demonstrably better at the task than me.
Sarah, the regular sort, will re-emerge eventually. I’ll probably don hot pants, go to gigs and festivals, maybe even plant a boob-shaped pampas grass flag on my front lawn in my early 50s, just as my offspring are settling down, sprogging up and going into their own quiet times. (Pause for silent evil chuckle.)
Ebb and flow. Flow and ebb. It’s how it is supposed to be. Now, if I could only stay awake until then……
Photo credit to: http://scrapetv.com