When Shakespeare wrote about the seven ages of man it seemed quite clear on the surface but when you look closely it is more like the seven ages of contradiction. No sooner do you learn a new skill than it is all change. When a baby burps the parents ooh and aah and congratulate the little mite. But fast forward twenty years and see how popular it is now. Likewise baby’s first attempts at walking and talking are roundly applauded. They are encouraged to speak and toddle and turn somersaults whenever they feel like it. No sooner have they mastered these skills than they are being told not to show off And so it goes on. There is much praise when little Johnny first sleeps through the night – his parents boast about what a good sleeper he is. Hit the teenage years though and those same parents are now complaining that much bigger Johnny won’t get up. Music is another bone of contention – the tunes (or not) that the teenager loves are played at the full volume to a chorus of parents demanding that the sound is turned down, but a few years later and those same parents are being asked by their children if they need to have their music on so loud. A nice clean plate is something much desired by parents and often rewarded with a sweet or an icecream. Then suddenly, with puberty, food can become an issue. Some parents are desperately trying to persuade their borderline anorexic child to eat whilst others are hoping to prevent their chubbier offspring from a lifetime of weight problems. Tiny children are easy to dress – they don’t hold much power in either having an opinion or a financial option but surprsingly quickly little girls develop strong views and based on current trends seem to be aiming for the junior prostitute look. Parents desperately try to persuade them into clothes they consider to be more suitable but young girls want a look that they feel is more likely to feature on the cover of a magazine. We don’t want them to look too old for their age and yet it won’t be long before children are begging their parents not to appear as mutton dressed as lamb.
Every four year old will tell you firmly that they are four and a half or four and three quarters, but in the middle years people tend to be a bit opaque about their age until they hit the final furlong. I’ve heard old ladies say about a recently departed friend ‘I’ve no idea why she died, she was only 86. I’m 88’. My mother used to say that as you got older you should add years on in the hopes that people will think you’re marvellous for seventy (as well they should if you are in fact only 60), but it can be disappointing if you add ten years to your age but fail to get gasps of astonishment at how amazing you are for your years.
Babies aren’t worried about making friends they are completely indifferent to other children until they start to totter about and gradually it becomes a learning curve about how to make friends. They have to learn to share their toys and play nicely. When people get towards the end of their lives I have noticed that they (and I include myself in this group) become much more intolerant and quite selfish. I’ve done my bit of sharing my toys and playing nicely now I’m entering, what is rightfully called, my second childhood, I can see myself becoming more and more difficult. This could, however, be a family thing. When my grandmother was in her eighties she was going on holiday, but the friend she was going with had to cancel because she fell and broke her hip. Instead of being sympathetic my grandmother was furious and never spoke to her friend again and she justified this by claiming that her oldest friend had always be a terribile hypochondriac. Similarly, my mother fell out with an old friend who develiped pneumonia while they were on holiday together and had to be flown home. My mother was livid and maintained that her friend had only pretended to be ill in order to draw attention to herself. I don’t think they ever spoke again! My gosh, my family and friends have got a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
Possessions are another thing – children are incredibly careless and forever leaving their sports bag on the bus or their shoes under their bed and then claiming that they have no knowledge of where these objects are. Then there is the period of adulthood when one seems to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for other people’s things. But I have now reached the age where my own things disappear. I decide to do the crossword so I find a pen and make sure it works – I live by myself so I have no idea who it is who replaces pens that don’t work back into the pot! To continue, I find the pen and go to do the crossword, then the telephone rings. After a brief coversation I go back to the crossword only to find that the pen has disappeared. I search every room in the house – even going to the attic in case a poltergeist has mysteriously whisked it up there. Finally I admit defeat and find another pen – I then return to the crossword to discover that the original pen is on the table but now the crossword has vanished. That is the point when I decide that it is time to write down any important information for the family while I can still remember it. I go to get some paper to write the list but when I come back – guess what – no pen. I think I need a drink.