My thirty-fifth birthday is coming up. In the blink of an eye, my mid-thirties have arrived (along with a couple dozen silver hairs and some fine lines around my eyes that turn into not-so-fine lines whenever I smile) and I’m just a hop, skip and a jump away from the big 4-0.
Does any of this really bother me? Not in the slightest. I love birthdays – they’re the perfect excuse to put your feet up, scarf down double-chocolate cupcakes, and guzzle up a margarita or two…or three…or who’s really counting anyway because it’s your birthday for goodness sake!
Up until last night, I’d never felt like I was actually getting older. Because after all, children have a certain way of making you feel young and vibrant…right?
Well, until they tell you that you’re not.
I was tucking Cal into bed and as I sat down to read him his story, he looked up at me and said, “Mommy, are you getting old?”
I was kind of surprised. Where was he going with that question? Were we about to have one of those deep, mommy-to-son discussions about life and death and the meaning behind why we’re all here? And if so, could I take five minutes to prepare? Maybe scribble down a few notes and draft a moving speech first?
I looked down at his bright, hazel eyes and said, “Well, Honey, we’re all getting older. I mean, I’m older now than I was when you asked me that question ten seconds ago. We’re always getting older.”
“Yeah, but are you getting old, Mommy. That’s what I want to know.”
“Old?” I asked him.
“Yeah, old.” Well, that was one question that I didn’t expect to hear at bedtime. Usually, he wants to talk about things like Star Wars and how many times he farted in the bath.
“Uhhh…well…I guess so,” I replied. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because I think you’re getting old.” Oh. Well that settles that then. Any illusions that I’d had about appearing youthful were officially crushed.
“And why do you think that I’m getting old?” I knew that I probably didn’t want to know the answer to that question, but I had to ask it anyway.
“Well, I think it’s your hair.”
“My hair? What’s wrong with my hair?” It’s a mid-length blonde bob. Hardly geriatric, if you ask me.
“I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s your new glasses,” he said, tilting his head to the side and studying my face.
What?! What was wrong with my new glasses? The optician said that they’re ‘hip and artsy’ (her words, not mine). I’m hardly walking around looking like Mrs. Doubtfire!!!
I took a deep breath and said, “You don’t like my glasses?”
“Nah, I like when you don’t wear any glasses.”
“Well, if I don’t wear any glasses, I won’t be able to see and then I’ll be walking around and bumping into things,” I replied.
“That’d be okay.” Cal replied with a cheeky smirk on his face. I reached over and gave his belly a good tickle. He let out a giggle and pushed my hand away.
“So my hair and glasses make me look like an old granny?” I asked him.
“Well, a little bit,” he replied thoughtfully. “But really it’s all those noises that you make.”
“Noises?” I asked, feeling a rather alarmed. “I make noises?!”
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “All the time.”
I looked at him, completely dumbfounded, and said “Like what? What kind of noises?”
“Well, you breathe out really loudly sometimes,” he explained. “Kinda like a horse.”
“I sound like a horse?”
“Yeah, kinda like this,” he said before letting out a long, dramatic sigh.
He sounded just like me. It’s official – I sound like a Clydesdale.
“And sometimes you grunt like Grandpa Bobbie when you move around,” he said, nodding his head. “You do that lots.”
Hold on just a second. I do NOT grunt like my sixty-five year old father. Ever.
“I don’t GRUNT! When have I ever grunted?” I demanded.
“All the time!” Cal insisted, giggling uncontrollably and moving to the far side of his bed in case I lunged forward to tickle him again.
“No, I do NOT!” I insisted. I was mortified. This couldn’t be true. He had to be winding me up.
“You do.” Cal stated again, looking certain. “Just ask Fin.”
“How about I just take your word for it.” I wasn’t going to bring Fin into the debate and have him confirm this whole grunting thing. I don’t care what anyone says. I do not walk around grunting like my father. Not now. Not ever.
I opened his story book and turned to the first page. We were done talking about my sighs and my alleged grunts. As I started to read the first sentence, Cal shouted out “OH!”
“Yeah, Cal?” I asked him.
“One more thing,” he said.
“Yeah?” I was actually nervous to hear what would be coming out of his five-year old mouth next.
“Your legs make funny sounds, too. They pop and crack sometimes when you’re walking.” He’s clearly been watching (and listening) to me very, very closely. Like my own tiny, blonde critic.
I sat on his bed in shock. When I was a little girl, I always knew where my father was in our house because his knees used to crack and pop. They still do (although he adamantly denies this every time I mention it).
“That’s why we never get into trouble,’ Cal explained. “When we’re doing something bad, we can hear you coming and then we stop so you don’t catch us.”
“Hold on….what bad things are you and your brothers getting up to?” I asked him. I probably didn’t want to know the answer to that question either. Ignorance is bliss and all.
“Oh, don’t worry, Mommy,” he replied casually, patting my back. “Let’s just read my story.” The kid is slick. Really, really slick.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if you should find that you’re under any illusions about yourself, you should just ask a five-year old for their personal opinion. Kids are brutally honest. And disturbingly observant. They’ll give you a sobering dose of reality and then send you on your merry way.
For the record, I’ve stopped sighing. The only creature that should walk around sounding like a horse is…well, a horse. I’ve also stopped all grunting (not that I ever grunted in the first place). My father is lovely and all, but I don’t want to walk around sounding like him. And as for my legs, I don’t know how to stop them from ‘popping and cracking’. It’s genetic. So my kids will continue to get up to mischief and I’ll continue to be blissfully unaware.
Pass the cupcakes, Folks. I’m going to need them.