Stories of Middle Age

Welcome to my first newsletter under a new platform

Parenting Teenagers in a Pandemic

After lock-down my daughter returns to school with jet lag. She is the only person in the country with jet lag. Every plane grounded.

She has been staying awake all night to keep company with friends she has made in Europe and America and then sleeping all day to avoid her family.

Her existence with us oscillates between being the most vivacious thing in the room to living unseen behind a closed bedroom door. Then she is the unseen presence, like a haunted room, making you feel unwelcome in your own house.

But other times she is divine. I mean, she is beautiful and she is discovering Twin Peaks for the first time.

Signs of Perimenopause

  1. Thinking more than usual about your late grandmother’s dementia.

  2. Wild bouts of fury. Seeing that men your age are sexually harassing your teenage daughter and her friends. Feeling murderous towards these kinds of men because they grew up alongside my generation of women and they would have seen all the feminist work we were doing as young women to stop this happening to us. And what the fuck happened?

  3. A sudden interest in unsolved true crime. Reading and puzzling over true crime in the middle of the night.

  4. Being reminded by true crime reading that you once planned to do a DNA test and trace some of your family tree when you got older. Opening an Ancestry.com.au account or similar.

  5. Really understanding the beauty of gardening. Wondering if this is just your English ancestry coming out in you.

  6. Marie Kondo-ing your wardrobe and starting again with, let’s face it, looser clothing. You once had a look and it was pencil skirts, and it is not that you have stereotypes about what older women can and cannot wear, it’s just now you want desperately for things to just be comfortable.

  7. Congratulating yourself on your Mediterranean-heavy diet. In my case, also a vegetarian diet. You could afford to cut back on the wine though.

  8. Reducing social media use.

  9. Appreciating the similarities between bird watching and recreational drug taking. Planning on a lot more bird watching in the future.

  10. Waves of unexplained joy.

Explaining Unexplained Joy

I am finding middle age a very joyful period of life. Though it must be said, I am getting an inordinate amount of pleasure out of simple tasks, like getting my daughter’s eyes tested and finding her eyesight is no longer deteriorating. Getting her new glasses ordered and paid for. So, it’s possible that I am just very small these days and middle age is full of small moments.

Less

I am semi-estranged from both parents. More or less. That is, I am more, with less. They have been divorced from one another for several decades, so neither reminds the other of their parenting obligations.

More

One morning I am getting very angry with my teenage daughter about how she doesn’t help around the house enough. I ask her what kind of feminist she is. She tells me I need to step back more if I want the family to step up more.

Oh my god, I can’t believe I am being lectured on boundaries and self-respect by a sixteen year old. I cannot believe that our daughters think we are martyrs. Us, this generation.

Sussex

I pay my respects to the Duke of Family Estrangement. My family is from his county. And don’t we know it.

Neighborhood Sounds

The young child next door was trying to get her father’s attention.

“Dad”.

“Dad”.

“Dad”.

“Dad”.

“Dad”.

“Dad”.

“Was ist?” he replied.

Bedroom

My husband bought me a toddler gate for our bedroom door. It doesn’t only restrict the little dogs from bouncing into the room, but also people. I am a cat person.

He would have liked a baby together. Oh my god, I mothered my babies so hard, I tell him. I breastfed for six years, co-slept for seven million years. I ran out.

The teenage daughter steals all my underwear because she is not doing her laundry regularly enough. The only stockings she has not taken are the ones I am wearing as I type this. Get a lock for your bedroom door, another mother advises me.

Did you read that chapter of your attachment parenting book?

On Researching Ancestry

You can really channel your nosey qualities into building a family tree. Privacy be damned. There’s a sweet spot where the archival rules restrict records from being shared and Facebook users are too old to know better about their own privacy settings.

On Beauty

As my daughter says, fortunately my grandmother was beautiful, so we think of her as ‘that fascinating, tormented woman’ instead of ‘that awful, crazy woman’. My grandmother collected five surnames, often with hyphens. Three of those names from husbands she acquired before she was thirty years old. Three before thirty! Apparently, she was a sex positive feminist in the nineteen thirties. Honestly, how did she manage it? She wreaked havoc on her family, that’s how.

What to Expect When You Are Expecting

My daughter talks to me in text messages with animated gifs. I wonder how long this childhood stage lasts for.