By Contributor: Gemma Chatzipanagiotis
This week I will celebrate my 37th Birthday.
How can that be? Inside I still feel like the same 20 something year old. Still ponder what I want to be when I grow up, and where I would like to go. As a mother of two young kids who are eternal product researchers for invisible pogo sticks, I have less time for these musings. In my mind though, I do not feel any different. I stare at the grey hairs in the mirror and wonder who put them there? When I bend down to pick a toy off the floor and a sound like a birthing cow comes out of my face, I stare at it lying on the floor. I am a spring chicken, not a labouring cow. My 60 something mother suffers from the same condition. She gasps when she sees herself in a photo. “Who the F**K is that”, she always exclaims. In her mind she is 11, floating around the streets of Glasgow. Her dog Kim, faithful at her side, her father’s words of affection ringing in her ears, giving her the confidence to walk through the school gates.
I can recall a midwife saying to me years ago, “AH well, we can see you have already delivered one child naturally.” I was flabbergasted. Mute with astonishment, I can remember pulling the white hospital sheet up to my mouth to bite it. Was there an exit sign on my birth canal? Was there a team of builders down there? Determined tiny men, scratching their hard hats and muttering their communal “we give ups”.
My poor aged vagina.
My body it seems is letting me know that I am getting older. This is illustrated perfectly on an evening out with my husband. To dine out is our preferred option. Dinnertime with kids is a torrid daily rollercoaster. Mealtimes must be synchronised to allow all family members to sit down simultaneously. Favourite forks and cups must be present and never swapped, in general, but certainly not between brother and sister. There must be a huge pan of extras in sight to appease the daily, “is that all I am getting”, enquiry. There must also be sides of different textures, usually celery, always cucumber. These must be cut into circles, never sticks. Ice cream must be out of the freezer slowly melting and ripe for scooping. Brown for him, pink for her.
A meal out is a most civilised affair. We sip our wine, use our cutlery and our napkins, and dissect the dishes leisurely. The scenes immediately before this are not so civilised and sadly confirm the ageing process to myself. Firstly, what to wear? Tights that you have to lunge around in before they settle just below your boobs. I have to whip them off immediately as they are clearly trying to eat me. What knickers to wear? A thong (may she rest in peace) is a post baby impossibility. Bikini pants. Comfortable yes, but they frame the mummy tummy perfectly. Full briefs it is. Shoes. Flip-flops are deemed unacceptable, and so I have to try on the things at the back of the wardrobe. Up in the air and pushed forward, shooting pains in my hips and wobbling. Makeup up on. My daughter shrieks and hides behind her big brother. The make-up and the washed, straightened hair prove too much for her.
For me, it is the before and afters of parenting which are amazing. A constant reminder of the changing times. Simple things that you would not think of become luxuries with motherhood. For example, the taxi ride to our chosen destination. My husband’s role in this scene has not changed with the advent of children. He still sits in the front and talks away to the driver. In the back is a different story. Seatbelts. The seating plan, which both children have already decided on before entering. Pushing buttons and kicking the driver’s seat. Drawing genitals on the windows and posting boogers in-between the seats; always with exaggerated winks and nods to one another. A solo taxi me, on route to her grown up dinner, looks out of the window, usually at the drizzling rain on the window, and hums away to herself. Pure bliss.
After our civilised meal, the narcolepsy starts to set in. We refuse dessert declaring ourselves stuffed, and request the bill. We are always surprised to learn that it is only 8pm. “Goodness we would usually just be putting the kids to bed,” we marvel. We consider going out for a drink, but remind ourselves of what a 30 something year old hangover, with two small children looks like. Instead, we retreat sensibly, my body shrieking silently for my yoga pants and personalised dent on the sofa. We enjoy a bottle of something and yell at Alexa to play songs from the nineties. We toddle off to bed, two hipsters, looking forward to sleeping like starfish; and REM oblivion.
My approaching birthday brings with it a night out. I phoned and booked a table last night. The first available one they have is for 8pm.
Pray for me.