'If you want to feel younger Mum, just wear your leopard print coat more…'
21:29 GMT, 14 November 2012
When Mabel hits her rebellious teenage years I will be 59. Just as she starts staying out until the time she currently gets up I will be a pensioner. I’m already secretly contemplating what style of reading glasses I’m going to get when Mabel starts doing homework in about five years (her older siblings poke fun at the ridiculously large type size on my phone now).
I only mention age and motherhood because this week I was intrigued to read about a British woman who has just become a mum at 51.
Fifty-one — the age when I was hoping (as a mum of four) that it may be possible to enjoy a long car journey without anyone asking ‘how long now’ seven minutes after we set off.
When are you too old to have a child
The age when toilet training will be a distant memory. Our collection of Charlie And Lola books will have been burnt on a bonfire fuelled by my fury at repeatedly reading them (I dislike spoilt Lola as much as I dislike beetroot. I would cross the road to avoid both of them.)
At 51, I want to be able to ‘sleep through’, as new mums refer to it, at least five nights out of seven. In my own bed. Without a small child snoring on top of me.
If you told me I had to care for a newborn again you’d find me hiding under the kitchen table gripped by flashbacks of the day I threw Gina Ford’s Contented Baby book out of a bedroom window at 2am — with a howling two-month-old in the background. So I am astonished and impressed by the parental bravery of new motherhood in your 50s.
I had Mabel, who is now 18 months, when I was 43. A decade ago, when I had my first child, I didn’t feel out of place at soft play centres, where the height restriction for children is 2ft. Today, I have to admit I do. It’s not that I feel too old to have a young child, it’s just that my days are littered with little reminders that I am out of step with my peer group.
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We are the only parents among our friends still pushing a buggy and using a child car seat. The only family among our friends whose Christmas tree won’t have any baubles at the bottom — to prevent removal by an enthusiastic toddler.
Everyone else we know stopped at two children, who’ve now reached an age where they may secretly scoff the Quality Street at Christmas but they won’t fiddle with low-hanging decorations.
When we celebrated Bonfire Night at a friend’s party recently, Mabel was the only child small enough to fit under the safety rope and I was the only mum racing round after a toddler full of marshmallows who’d taken her wellies off somewhere in the dark.
And this week, due to a bout of teething, I am back on the sofa at 5am with Mabel, waiting for Rastamouse to start on CBeebies.
All of this is to be expected with a toddler, but at nearly 45 I admit I find it much more challenging than I did at 35.
I am, of course, grateful to have been lucky enough to have a child at 43 and I’m certainly not complaining. But I doff my cap to anyone embarking on this path at 51.
And it makes me wonder how I’ll cope in years to come when my ten-year-old expects me to know the lyrics of all the latest boy-band songs at the same time as I’m embracing gardening as a hobby and telling everyone how young policemen look today.
I fear I need to go to ‘forever young’ boot camp. I need to join, or probably create, the ‘50 is the new 30’ club and embrace a constantly youthful attitude that may be out of kilter with my peers’ descent into carefree fiftyhood.
When I discuss this with Gracie, aged eight, she has a fantastic solution and one that I think will work across all the age groups my children encompass.
‘Why don’t you wear that leopard-print coat more often’ she suggests. ‘You said it makes you feel young.’
Indeed. As any woman who is remotely interested in clothes will tell you: leopard print, there’s no problem it doesn’t solve.
Lorraine Candy is editor- in-chief of ELLE magazine