Tag Archives: Age

The mental age

I’ve been thinking lately about age. It occurred to me rather suddenly that I am now officially of ‘middle age’ – probably a little past the middle if I’m honest with myself. However that’s just the physical me, my chronological age. The ‘I’ in my head is somewhere around twenty five years old and he is just as real as the somewhat scuffed body he occupies.

That line of thinking brought with it a question; have my chronological and consciousness ages always been different or did they only start to drift in my mid-twenties?

Thinking back, I can’t remember a time in my early childhood where I felt older or younger than my age, I was a kid and every now and again a Birthday would roll around and I would count myself one year older. It was really pretty simple. I had no concept of age really other than to think that everyone taller than myself, was ‘old’.

My teens were spent wishing I was older. I remember that very clearly. I just wanted to be finished with school and the awkwardness of puberty and I desperately wanted to be able to drive a car. No one on this planet could possibly have wanted it more. Driving represented freedom and control of my own destiny and being able to play my own music on the car radio.

Oh, and I wanted to grow my hair. It was the eighties after all where every rockstar at the time had long hair and I wanted that more than anything too – except of course for being able to drive. But there, I always still felt my age, albeit in excruciating detail – by that I mean I was seventeen for what felt like an entire decade. True story.

I guess the argument could be made that the ‘I’ inside was actually younger than my physical age during those teenage years. Plenty of poor choices were made, which I won’t scare my mother with by committing them to this post. My early twenties were also filled with many poor choices but here I made a few good choices too and I think my ages aligned more closely for a short while.

Then, rather curiously, my mind stopped aging in my mid twenties while my body followed the clock. It’s difficult to put a finger on what happened though.

What was the catalyst for this split? Who is this person living inside my head that does not align properly with the body he’s in? He can still do a five kilometer run at the drop of a hat and then eat a Cleveland Burger from Clans without skipping a beat. Whereas the guy in the mirror needs to take a nap after eating protein – much like a toddler.

My eldest is beginning to wish himself older, not because he’s unhappy with his lot in life in any way, but rather because Star Wars: The Last Jedi is coming to a cinema near us in a couple of months and he desperately wants to watch it on the big screen. He must have asked me if the new episode is PG rated about a thousand times since I told him it was coming out. He simply cannot contain his enthusiasm and I think secretly, after he’s said his prayers each night with me, he adds an extra shout out to the big guy about Star Wars being PG rated. He really is an open book, he draws people in with his sunny disposition and is very difficult to say no to. I imagine great things ahead for him because he has such a big, open, generous personality.

The little guy on the other hand is barely even aware of what day of the week it is. It’s not that he doesn’t know because he can’t comprehend the days of the week and the progression of time, rather it’s that he simply does not care. He’s also a huge Star Wars fan, but only to the point that he often asks if we can just go watch it today. No? Oh well. On to the next thing then. I am in a constant state of surprise, confusion and amazement with him. Sometimes I check his pockets just to make sure he’s not carrying around the one ring to rule them all. I imagine great things ahead for him because he is already in charge of his own universe, it’s just a matter of time really before he’s in charge of ours.

As my boys get older, I wonder if I will recognize the points at which their ages start to differ inwardly and outwardly. Perhaps I will. Perhaps not.

I do think though that asking them how old they are and how old they feel (on a regular basis) would be a good exercise. You never know, I might find myself living in a house with a twenty five year old pre-schooler plotting how he’s going to reach the pedals of the car when he takes it for a joyride.

Advertisements

The equals

In an age where children are put under the microscope and continually assessed against every yard stick imaginable, it’s a wonder that they don’t all morph into bundles of neuroses dressed in matching school uniforms lugging around overstuffed school bags on their backs.

I get it. The idea is to get them all to conform to a set of behaviors and be measured against well defined assessments and then, if any child happens to score low (or high as the case may be) in a given area, that becomes an area of interest that teachers and obviously parents then need to focus on. Early detection. Early treatment. Better outcomes. I get it.

But there’s a problem. When these weights and measures were first being applied to our children, they seemed to only highlight one or two children in a given year, now you can’t swing a book bag without hitting at least ten children in a class that are on some sort of ‘requires therapy’ spectrum. As a parent, you have to ask yourself; can this be right? Are we not now searching for problems a little too enthusiastically and with such a fine toothed comb that ultimately we find exactly what we were looking for?

While I do support the idea of screening for potential problems and then treating them early to avoid bigger problems down the line, I do think that we’re missing something pretty obvious in more instances than the system would like to admit and that is this; we are talking about children. They do not all mature at the same rate. They are not all the same age in the same grade. They do not all put their hands in the air before they speak. They do not all possess the ability to sit in a chair for an hour or more at a time without having to stand up to stretch their legs.

By way of example, some adults verbally process thoughts and ideas, yes I think there’s a term for that, it’s called ‘thinking out loud’. Why then do we expect every child to think internally? Why do we have to label any child that doesn’t conform in every area with an acronym? The favorite by a country mile at the moment being ‘ADHD‘.

Once that term gets bandied about, you find yourself having to take your child to some kind of therapy to address the ‘problem’. The therapy advocated, more often than not, is ‘occupational therapy‘, which I’m not a huge fan of (and that’s putting it as delicately as is humanly possible). The ‘problem’ is, more often than not, that your child is simply not like the other children. That’s it. That’s literally the ‘problem’ that you’re being asked to resolve.

Think about that for a moment.

I submit to you that for most parents, myself included, that particular ‘problem’ comes as no surprise at all. I have two children who are from the same genetic swimming pool. They are pretty close in age. They have been raised in the same way and have, incidentally, worn the same clothes and played with the very same toys (hand-me-downs being a superfine thing because they’re both boys) and I can tell you unequivocally, that they are as different from each other as candy floss and butternut.

Could we not perhaps be looking just that little bit too hard for problems? Should we not step back a little and say perhaps there is some other reason for a particular behavior presenting in a child. Perhaps we could consider weighting the age of a child a little more as a factor when doing assessments.

Here’s a simple example to illustrate the point. A child born in January and a child born in December of the same year are expected (in South Africa) to start school in the same year. You might be inclined to think that on the surface – that sounds quite reasonable. But let me put that another way for you, a child born in December is not actually even conceived at the time that a child born in January is, in fact, out of the womb and experiencing the world.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Can we then fairly compare the ability of both of those children to suckle on the day that the January baby is born? No, of course not. The December baby is still just a twinkle in the eyes of the parents or an ‘X’ on a calendar for date night on Valentine’s Day. Six months later can we compare the ability of the December baby to roll over onto their tummies on a play mat with that of the six month old January baby? Again, no, of course not. December babies are still in the womb, tugging on the umbilical cord for oranges and peanut butter. By the time a December baby is actually born, the January baby is crawling, in some cases even walking.

The list goes on.

I will concede that by the age of six or seven, the gap between our two hypothetical children narrows significantly, but there is still a gulf between them and I believe our school systems should make more allowances for that. At the moment they seem to lean towards ‘therapy’ to bridge the gap which then in some cases leads to medication. The whole diagnosis of these conditions is the subject of umpteen articles like this one.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support and salute teachers, they are the architects of our future. They shape the minds of the children that will one day choose nursing homes for all of us. I just wish they would step back every now and again and wait for a birthday to roll around.

For now, let’s celebrate the non-conformity of our children lest we end up in a world out of George Orwell’s nightmares.


  


The forty three

And just like that, I’m forty three. Forty bloody three years old. I was twenty one the last time I looked and then there was work and marriage and children and I’m pretty sure I blinked a few times and attended a few parties and then all of a terrible sudden there was forty three.

Immediately, there are a number of questions that spring to mind. What happened to the hair on my head? Why do I suddenly see less of my feet and more of my belly?

Actually, on that subject, what the hell is going on with all the hair on my belly? It’s as if I’ve donned an organic chest armor that I’ve woven by hand over many moons in my man-cave. All the fibers cut to a uniform length. It’s almost plush. If you shaved it, and managed to keep it all together, you could wrap it around a hairless cat (Sphynx) and make it look quite normal. There’s even a grey patch.

Actually, the hair on my body in general is behaving oddly. I now have hair growing out of my ears. Yes, hair that I now need to clip daily so that it does not get mistaken for an organic new age hearing aid or a winter warmer version of Beats by Dr. Dre.

There is also a chilling amount of hair sprouting from my knuckles, so much so in fact that I’m beginning to have Robin Williams and Steve Carell related nightmares. If you know either of these characters, you’ll understand that the fear is real. And, you know, psychopaths have hairy hands. The future looks grim.

My eyebrows are doing something quite strange too where it seems that the once universal length limit imposed on individual eyebrows has somehow now been repealed. In the past, I never noticed any individual eyebrow exceeding more than a centimeter in length. Now not a week goes by that I don’t find a freakishly long specimen, five or six times the standard length, hidden amongst the other human hair like a bloody mutant on my forehead. I can check the entire crop today and won’t find a single one, but tomorrow morning there will be a six centimeter monster getting ready to colonize my face. 

My nose hair is also stepping slightly outside of the bounds of normal these days. When I look in there, it’s all dark and mysterious. Just as a nostril should be. Then every few days a stray nose hair will step out of line and extended beyond its prescribed boundary, refusing to get back behind the line. Naturally, I immediately pluck these strays but when they’re out, they’re always completely grey. Or it’s it clear like polar bear fur? Hard to say really. Somehow, between the plucking and the plucked, they change colour. It’s a mystery inside an enigma. It also makes my eyes water.

I think that there’s a point you reach as a man, in terms of hair growth and hair loss that once crossed, leaves you in the strange realm where people move to the other side of the street to avoid you. Where beach critters will try to embed themselves in your warm fur, if you happen to remove your shirt on a sunny day in the sand. Or indeed where birds try to pick at you for raw materials for a new nest and then possibly try to build it on your head.

Let me quickly qualify this post and say that I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I haven’t just gone out and bought a topless sports car, nor have I grown anything approximating a ponytail or any other kind of designer facial hair. I’m still married to my lovely wife and have not installed a girlfriend, a mistress, an earring or even a new tattoo. So, I’m completely normal in every way, I think, I’m just flummoxed at how quickly twenty two years has gone. That said, I’ll admit, I am getting a little panicky about all the hair.

Yes, these last two decades have flown by. There were days where time seemed to pass by so slowly that it felt like I was in charge of tracking how fast a glacier moved. As an aside, the fastest moving one is the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland that’s moving at about 1.4 meters an hour. If you’re a glacier, that’s pretty fast. If you’re a human, you’re probably beginning to grow moss and people in white coats are fitting you for your own white coat or sticking post-its on you. But I digress.

Then there were days where I blinked and a few years had disappeared before my eyes like Bruce Jenner’s masculinity. Insert your favorite simile here. Insert rants about the jab at Caitlyn here too.

As I collect my thoughts at the end of the day and stare at the ceiling awaiting the blanket of sleep to fall on my face, I’ll probably not be concerned with the twenty two year hop skip and jump in time that landed me at 43 years old.

No, I’ll probably be thinking about buying a universal hair trimming device with all the necessary attachments for all the crazy hair I’ve sprouted.