‘Granpa, do you miss being a kid?’
Not the sort of question you expect to come, à propos of nothing, from a seven year old tucking enthusiastically into his breakfast. Nonetheless, a fair enough one, and deserving of a measured response.
‘Well no, because in my head I still am a kid’ was my eventual reply.
‘But do you miss being a kid?’. He’s very persistent when he wants to be.
I thought about it some more. Clumsy, tongue-tied, painfully shy, useless at games. Me, not him, obviously.
‘No, not really’
‘Well – because there are lots of things I like that you can only do when you’re grown up’.
Bit of a hostage to fortune there. If pressed, I suppose I could have fast-forwarded to rock ‘n roll and bored him rigid from there, but the other bits could have been a bit awkward. Fortunately, though, I wasn’t asked to be more specific and said grandson returned to the demolition of his eggy bread.
However, this little exchange did make me ponder – yet again – on this whole getting older thing. As it happens, I’d already begun to consider this subject after seeing a TV programme the previous evening in which somebody quoted Shakespeare’s views on the matter, as delivered by the Fool to King Lear:
“I’d have thee beaten for being old before thy time…Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise”
Being wilfully old before your time strikes me as perfectly reasonable grounds for a bit of a kicking, It’s something I try actively to avoid. Although since I don’t aspire to being particularly wise, perhaps I’ve just got some kind of immunity.
Never mind ‘old before my time’: I don’t even want to act my age.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve no desire whatsoever to be, at the opposite extreme, ‘down with the kids’. I can’t think of anything worse – or more embarrassing. Dad-dancing as a lifestyle choice? Baseball caps? I think not. I do my best to be an old romantic, but I surely don’t want to be a New one.
No, I’m cheerfully rooted in my own teens/twenties head space, thank you very much.
But definitely not a kid.
Tempting as it is to act your mental in preference to your physical age – especially when freed by retirement from the constraints of the workplace – there are certain responsibilities attached to being a parent and grandparent when it comes to setting a good example. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ probably isn’t going to prove very effective as a teaching aid for passing on life’s lessons to impressionable youth.
Letting it all hang out – I speak metaphorically, of course – is definitely not something to be encouraged among seven year olds, either by example or recommendation. So, while the kids are around I do my best to impart an air of wise but kindly gravitas.
But just wait ’til I get the earphones in and crank up the volume..