In a few days time I will turn 45. This is not as much of a shock or a feeling of desolation that I had when I turned 30. Losing my twenties was something that took a lot of headspace, and the fact that I was pregnant with my first child meant that I couldn’t even celebrate in style. And turning 40 was initially overshadowed by the death of my beloved grandfather, once the funeral was over I had two days before I was whisked off to the Ice Hotel which was a truly magnificent and an unforgettable experience. Lying down at -10C in an art exhibit of a room made entirely of ice in a bed comprising sleeping bag -on -reindeer skins- on wooden pallets- on ice blocks resulted in one of the best nights sleep that I had ever had. And of course, turning 45 is not really a big birthday… it’s a good age, where you have a bit of time before you hit five oh, and you are only five years away from when you turned 40. So it’s a good mid age.
Having a birthday in January is always a bit depressing. Most of your friends are broke from Christmas, or detoxing for the New Year. All of your presents are bought in the sales, which is great for the giver, but not great if you need to take something back because it doesn’t fit. Or even worse, you get given unwanted Christmas presents– one year I even found the Christmas gift tag stuffed into the box with a little private message to my friend… But on the up side my birthday comes at the time of the month where the memory of Christmas is distant, the detox is beginning to become a struggle, and my good friends will always come out to celebrate!
Rather weirdly, due to work or other circumstances, I’ve hit an age where I am either ten years older or ten years younger than some of my friends. Having three kids roughly 3 years apart from each other in age means that my school life spans a number of different mummies. To one set I am still a young mum, to another I dispense sage advice with all the grace of an elder statesman. It is a stage at which I am comfortable. I watch other mums stressing out about things that used to worry me – what level books their child reads, why the Science teacher doesn’t seem to ‘get’ their kid, the unfairness of sports teams selections – and I know with the benefit of hindsight that it all works out in the end. On the other hand, with my eldest I have learned from the older mums that although it is a first time for me, as a senior my child is far more capable than I would expect, and when there is a real and actual problem, he will come to me. (Although if it is Maths, I will still send him to his Dad…)
At my age I have now seen the downsides of life as well as the upsides, and hopefully have learned from them. In my twenties I was ambitious (and successful) and unthinking when it came to trampling over anyone when it came to my career. I earned and spent a lot, without a care for the future. I had a great time, and yet it took a lot of effort and energy in keeping up the momentum. But I did a lot and experienced a lot, and part of me would probably be shocked if my kids did the same, but another would be sad if they didn’t at least have the freedom to try. In my thirties I rethought my career ambitions so that I could work from home with my young kids – this was fulfilling, frustrating and fast paced. This was also the time of weddings – one year we went to nine… My thirties disappeared faster than any other era. Hitting the forties brought on the divorces – friends shattered the illusions of the Happy Ever Afters and I found myself trying not to side with one or the other. It brought on the deaths of beloved members of family - one year we lost 5. It hit me personally last year showing just how tangible and precious life is when we nearly lost Eldest Son, aged 13, in a rowing accident. And you start putting on weight – Fat and Forty – it’s not just a saying, it’s a prediction…
Over the decades I have survived the advent of emails, HD TVs (let alone colour ones) and mobile phones. I have learned to cook, briefly unlearned to cook in my twenties with the attraction of takeaways and microwave meals, and then started to like cooking again. I work in a job that suits me, rather than my conforming to the job. I now change my hair colour, not because it is fun, but to cover the grey. I’m never going to be the shape I was in my twenties – the years have taken its toll – but I am relatively comfortable in my own body. I have three fit and healthy boys whom I adore and to whom I will always be Mum. I have learned (with some degrees of success) to not react to those who deliberately goad me, or whom I dislike on the first meeting. They may have a point. I now take the time to enjoy my surroundings, be it on a walk in the woods with the dog, or a brand new cocktail bar. I have some very dear and old friends and some new acquaintances that I am looking forward to getting to know better.
I am old enough to have learned to give and take, and young enough to enjoy it.
So it is with a philosophical smile that I will raise a glass to myself on my birthday. Yes, in a couple of days I will be turning 45. But I will be smiling.