I recently had my birthday. It was really lovely, thank you for asking. But now, it’s unescapable, I am officially neck-deep in my late thirties. My mid-thirties have vanished, the late thirties are here; and they see me living a life that is quite different (and in many ways vastly richer than) to the one I might have anticipated. Case in point: this babe.
While I celebrate and ponder the late thirties, B3 has reached six months old, in that cliched flash / blink of the eye. The kid is stupendously delicious and consistently delightful. She’s all instant smiles and nuzzles into the neck, which wins me over every time, I’m sure it’d have the same effect on even the coldest of hearts.
In case her half-birthday and my birthday-birthday didn’t drive the point of my age home enough, we went to a school quiz night fundraiser the other night. It was disorienting. Not because of the costumes (Olympic theme – there were tables of people dressed as zeka mosquitoes and Russian athletes and dope testers) but because I was the parent. At a school fundraiser. I conferred with a friend to see if I was the only one feeling ancient and discombobulated and she reassured me – “It’s weird. It’s like we’re… our parents.” Exactly. Somehow I missed the passing of the torch. I assumed I was still young.
I’m acutely aware how frivolous and unimportant this seems, considering the weight of so very many other things – wars, tyrannies, elections, global warming, the general state of the planet. I know it is especially silly to anyone who is beyond their late thirties. It’s funny when someone younger is struggling with a birthday – “I’m….24! Help!” *insert me trying not to snort-laugh*. It’s not that I’m horrified by time passing, but it certainly gives me pause. Particularly when I am struck by the comparison to my parents. I am as old as they were. This stuns me. I am the parent now. The grown up.
Um… shouldn’t there be some kind of licensing system?
While I might be the Mum of young children now, I am slowly growing out of that role too, day by day, just as they outgrow their winter tights and jeans. I cannot hold on to their youth any more than I can hold on to mine. One day I’ll be the Mum of teenagers, then the Mum of young women. Perhaps, a grandmother. I realize that there are many more days and years in between now and then, and that I’d be lucky, so lucky, to have the privilege of growing old; that is not lost on me. But what struck me recently, with the psychological equivalent of a brisk slap to the face, was the fact that: I am never going to be as young as I am now.
Of course there are still possibilities, unforeseen challenges, adventures (hopefully), surprises and opportunities; but there is no going back from here. There never was any going back, of course, but somehow it felt like it. More chances for a do-over, for changing course, for making mistakes and taking risks. For running marathons, scaling mountains and discovering phenomenal hidden talents (ha!)
Does anyone else ever feel like this? That there used to be more time for do-overs? More time to learn the ropes? To be a kid, while your parents did, well, the parenting?
It’s pertinent that I’m having these questions just as my love affair with Radio NZ blossoms and they decide to produce a fantastic podcast – A Wrinkle in Time – to discuss these very dilemmas. I’ve been hooked to it while the babe sleeps longer and I get time again for baking and musing. The host (Noelle McCarthy)’s Irish accent is perfect for facilitating reflection while ignoring warnings not to eat cake mix with raw egg in it. The older interviewees reassure me. They are frank, pragmatic, contemplative and wise. They make aging seem less scary. They seem to have something I don’t. Which prompts me to assume there is more still to gain. I really like that thought.
Because right now, life is pretty rich. Chaotic and imperfect, busy and bumbling, but good, really. Very good. I might not know exactly what I am doing and I might not feel like a qualified grown up but that too might be okay. Most days we go from order to disarray, tears to laughter, frustration to utter contentment over and over again; riding the emotional waves, hitting the shore and heading back out again. It’s rewarding. It’s exhausting. It’s…
[I just cannot stop using the adjective “rich”. Does anyone else my age have a similar feeling about this time in our lives? The wonderful, wearying, richness of it?]
At any rate, the late thirties are here and B3 is six months and that is that. To celebrate those whizzing, zipping six months, her half-birthday, I have included six of my favourite photos of the munchkin. That’s her – the sweetness and curiosity, the tiny frown between the eyes, the huge, easy grin. I hope you don’t mind. I’m rather fond of her.