My mum rang in the ten-minute window between one birthday party finishing and the next one starting.
“What you up to?” she asked.
“Just about to leave for our third birthday party of the weekend,” I replied.
“Ooo,” she said, with a sharp intake of breath. “Sucks to be you.”
She may not have ACTUALLY said sucks to be you, but she definitely MEANT sucks to be you. Because, yes, on this occasion it sucked to be me.
“Do you know,” my mum added, helpfully, “I was only 42 when you left home. Forty-two! Your dad was 44! Early 40s and we had our lives back! Can you imagine?!”
“No mother, I can’t imagine.”
“Your dad was the same age as Paul is now,” she added, just in case I’d missed her initial point. “And look at Paul! Chasing after small children! Poor Paul.”
“Poor Paul indeed,” I said, through gritted teeth.
“There’s certainly a lot to be said for having children young! You should probably have had children when you were younger.”
“Thank you mother. I’ll remember this for my next life.”
“Anyway, enjoy the party! I’m off for a nap.”
She has a point, of course. I was 18 when my mum turned 40. When I turn 40 in November, I’ll have a 4, 5 and 11-year-old, all of whom are still fairly high maintenance, and a long way off getting their P-plates and wiping their own bottoms.
There are times when I resent this. I don’t resent parenthood, and I don’t resent my children, I just resent all the BULLSHIT that goes along with parenthood and children. I resent birthday parties and school discos and Sunday-morning soccer and any demands made outside of the regular parenting hours of 7am to 7pm. Perhaps resent is too extreme a word. I don’t resent extra-curricular parental duties; I just fucking hate them. I’m jokkkkkking. I neither resent nor hate my extra-curricular parental duties – I just, I dunno, BEGRUDGE them.
I understand that there are parents out there in the world who do not begrudge extra-curricular parental duties. I understand that there are parents who not only accept Friday-night school discos, but actually participate in them! Like, they distribute tickets and sell Redskins and break up canoodling. I applaud those parents, but I do not understand them.
This, of course, is unrelated to my age. I’d hate school discos just as much if I was a young, 21-year-old mother; possibly more, because at 21 I should be the one canoodling on a dance-floor, not my primary-school-aged son. In that regard, it helps that I’m old and doddery; my clubbing days are long since over, and the only reason I resent school discos is because they mean precious time away from my sofa, television and wine rack.
I’ve felt recently as though extra-curricular parental duties are taking over my life. This is starting to piss me off. I like my kids and all, but I like being a grown-up, too. I like not going to children’s parties. I like not watching Calilou. I like not going to the movies to see Blinky Bill (one-star, such absolute shit). I like not being kicked in the head while I sleep. I like not going to playcentres, and peeling children who aren’t my own from my leg. I like not going to playcentres full stop (I hate playcentres). I like not having to stay sober so I can ferry an older child between friends’ homes. I like not having to wipe snot off my iPhone so I can check Instagram.
That has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with being a selfish fucker. I want the kisses and the cuddles and the heart-bursting pride that comes with a small child getting a principal’s award for using the correctly-spelled word “unfortunately” in a pre-primary narrative, but – sometimes, occasionally, and every so often – I could do without all the added bullshit.
You know what really winds me up? When my kids have a tantrum or a whinge while we’re partaking in an extra-curricular parental activity that I wholeheartedly begrudge. Like, when we’re trying to get all the kids in the car to go to – I dunno – trampoline land, or somewhere equally bouncy and shit, and they’re climbing on the roof-rack (Frankie) and misplacing their shoes (Ben) and protesting that they’d rather stay at home and play on the iPad. And it’s, like, what the FUCK, dudes? You think I WANT to be doing this shit? You think I want to drive 45 minutes with you whingeing feckers only to sit for another 90 minutes watching you whingeing feckers demand Pop Tops and chips, while other little feckers touch me? Feckers, I do not. I want to sip wine and watch the sun set, bra-less and slippered. Or, failing that, climb on the roof-rack and cry that I’d rather stay at home and play on the iPad.