Sunday, November 28, 2010

Role Swapping

It happens quite gradually, one minute you are fully in control of your life and a role model to your children, and the next they are deciding what is good for you and giving advice in a voice a little louder and a tad slower. I married and had children fashionably young to minimize the generation gap and fully expected them to celebrate my youthfulness in their midlife. Sadly my plans have gone awry and I find myself the victim of life’s cruel joke. My children have become my parents and my husband is sliding into the space they have vacated.
Thinking back, the first real evidence of this happened whilst I was visiting my son, who was living and working in Argentina several years ago. I wanted to visit Uruguay and booked a ferry trip over the River de la Platte, planned some exploration and an overnight stay. My exciting news was met with a stony face and I was told that this was not a good idea. “You can’t go alone.” I was informed, “You can’t speak the language,” and “What if you get lost?” A little flattered that he cared, I reassured my son that I had managed the journey to visit him alone, was an adult, had a tongue in my head and knew how to use the telephone. As he continued to point out how dangerous the world was I had to remind him that at his age I had brought my family across the world and settled in another country. He was not at all convinced I was a seasoned traveler and threatened to ground me and furthermore he would “have to tell his father”. Oh how the tables have turned I thought. The irony of hearing my old retort, “I am going to tell your father”, leaving from my son’s lips was too cruel and my plea of “I am old enough to look after myself” sounded remarkably juvenile. Of course, I went, had a great time and returned triumphantly in one piece to be met by a stony silence and a thin lipped grimace as a reprimand.

However, I knew that my kids believed that I was in my dotage when we had a theft at home, with no visible signs of a break in, and they dashed around, made me a hot cup of sweet tea, bent close enough to my face to allow me to lip read and asked me, “Where have you put your jewelry mother?” So now I am the one advised to lock my doors, wrap up warm, drink plenty of fluids and not to talk to strangers.  
I get reproachful looks if I joke with the vicar, misbehave in public or laugh too loudly in restaurants or wear anything remotely different. The thought that one day my sons would give any advice on fashionable hair accessories was too ludicrous to contemplate but on our way to a family wedding last year my fashionable, feathered and bejeweled fascinator was discussed by my sons, not at all discreetly, in the front on the car while I sat in the back like a victim of ‘What not to Wear’ fashion sleuths. I was trapped, pounced upon and my individuality was scorned as they asked one another, “What has she got on her head?” and “Whatever was she thinking when she bought it?” Except in my realty fashion review, I am not at all penitent. Like a stubborn teenager, the more ridiculous it seems to them, the more I am determined to wear it!
A recent, spur of the moment visit to the local casino resulted in an online conference about ‘what we should do about mom’s gambling habit’ and no doubt the members of my book club have been scrutinized to find the culprit who influenced my delinquency. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there are already plans in place to find a secure retirement home that enforces curfews and is strong on discipline

In fact my children have become experts on most things since they left our home. Driving advice from those you taught to drive is never welcome. I endured far too many white knuckle rides as a passenger ferrying my matriculant learner drivers to school to have any patience when one of them turns to me 10 years later to remind me of the speed limit on the freeway.

The same goes for culinary skills. There isn’t much that I haven’t I haven’t sliced, diced, battered, braised, basted or baked and so far it all seems to have worked out fine and I and all whom I have cooked for are here to tell the tale. Well apart from Aunt Emily, but how was I to know she was allergic to nuts? Last Christmas, when we cracked open the champagne our youngest, having travelled overseas and now a man of the world, proceeded to give us a lecture on how to drink champagne. Apparently all these years we have been overfilling our glasses as champagne was meant to be drunk an inch at a time! I had no idea that such a breach of etiquette existed nor did it make sense to have to refill our glasses after each mouthful of delicious bubbles. On New Year’s Day he phoned early to wish us the best for the year – a tad too early really. Shocked that I was still in bed at lunchtime, having only got into it at 4am, he asked was I was ill. “Not at all” I replied, “I just happened to drink a foot of champagne last night.” The silence on the phone was deafening.

So here’s to growing old disgracefully! I am planning to have a large tattoo shortly and have no plans to tell them that it is fake and I also plan to go shopping in that fascinator and my wedding dress at least once before I die.


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