My children returned to school last week after the long summer break. The start of a new academic year is always a time of re-evaluation for me. So far I have been fairly successful in my attempts to establish a routine of exercise, sensible eating and catching up on sleep. Although I am feeling good about this early success, I am all too aware that maintaining such behaviour will be the real challenge.
Yesterday I had a visit from an old friend who I hadn’t seen in nearly twenty five years. I collected him from our local train station and, as he emerged from the building and looked around for me, I did not detect recognition. Obviously I have changed in that considerable time.
We had only a couple of hours to chat before he was required to leave for a conference he is attending nearby; not nearly long enough for a proper catch up, but sufficient to get a feel for where we are in our lives. I love getting together with old friends; chatting to them seems so easy and natural. Whatever changes have occurred on the outside, the people we are inside remains. Life’s battle scars may have jaded our youthful exuberance, but we are still the individuals we were drawn to befriend all those years ago.
I wonder why it is that I feel so much more relaxed with those I got to know in my formative years than with those I have met since. It could be that I am now seen as wife and mother; I am judged on that as much as on myself. It could be that I have lost the ability to present myself as an independent being. I am required to play so many roles it can be hard to know how I am perceived by others.
After my friend had left we settled down to enjoy a lovely, family night in. Pizzas were cooked and a salad made; after dinner we watched a newly purchased and entertaining film. I love evenings like this. I am aware that, as we each move on in our lives, such togetherness will become more of a rarity.
I am feeling positive about where I am at the moment; I am also feeling my age. The mirror presents me with a reflection that does not tally with the person I see myself as inside. My children do not treat me as someone who can understand their teenage lives.
The old friends I have managed to get together with in recent months knew me when I was in my teens. The escapades we reminisce about, the thoughts and feelings that I had back then, are all still clear in my mind. I remember what it was like to be that age.
I also remember how I saw my parents at the time. I cannot expect my children to perceive me as anything other than old and out of touch. I must not make the mistake of trying to match my experiences with theirs. They are individuals living their own lives and, if I am to understand them, must get to know the people they have become as I would anyone else. I would rather like it if they would grant me the same courtesy.
It can be hard to bridge the generational divide, particularly with our own children. I would be interested in getting to know my parents better. When I talk to older people I do not want advice or to be told what to do; I want to chat as equals. I am sometimes surprised by my parent’s views as I have built up so many preconceptions over the years. We have shared thoughts and feelings so selectively as we seek to protect and minimise concern it sometimes feels as if we barely know each other as people.
I do so hope that I can be close to my children as they grow into adulthood. I believe this can only happen if I can let them be themselves and develop a life beyond parenthood for myself. The person I was is still there. I wonder would my children like her if they could bring themselves to see beyond the wrinkles.