When I read Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I questioned myself if I had been conscientious and diligent enough as a parent click. According to Amy Chua, children have to be pushed very hard to realise their full potentials. When I came across Pamela Druckerman’s ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’, my children were already teenagers and I do not think there were ever any issues about my children not eating what was being provided; nonetheless it would have been interesting to read about what the author had to say in her earlier books on bringing up children.
A few months ago, when I came across Druckerman’s latest book, There are No Grown-Ups A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story, I had to get it. To begin with, its title resonates with me although turning forty seems like a young age looking back. I read it amidst my other reading. I think I am having a panic attack as there are far too many good fictions to read. All these writers are awesome, they are special and talented people who have put together their writings so well. My writings are scattered and random.
Druckerman writes with a keen observation and she has certainly done some research writing the book.
Here is a snippet of what the author has written.
“ And yet for senior citizens I meet, the forties are the decade that they would most like to time travel back to. “ How could I possibly have thought of myself as old at forty?’ asks Stanley Brandes, an anthropologist who wrote a book about turning forty in 1985. “ I sort of look back and think: God, how lucky I was, I see it as the beginning of life, not the beginning of the end.”
I picked up tennis after I turned forty. Tennis was one of the sports that I had always wanted to pick up. When I was at the university, I hit a little tennis but I wanted to learn to hit tennis with the right strokes. I started taking tennis lessons the same time when my daughters were sent for tennis and squash lessons. I was then so into the sport that I would hit tennis five to six times a week. My interest in tennis has gradually waned off over the years.I have caught some live tennis matches at the Australian Open and Wimbledon and I am truly glad to have experienced that.
Druckerman writes about the number forty,
‘But the number forty still has gravitas and symbolic resonance. Jesus fasted for forty days. Mohammed was forty when the archangel Gabriel appeared to him. The Biblical flood lasted for forty days and nights, and Moses was forty when he led the Israelites out of Egypt, after which they famously wandered the desert for forty years. Brandes writes that in some languages, ‘ forty” means “ a lot.”
“And there is still something undeniably transitional about age forty. You’ve only ever known yourself as a certified young person, and now you’ve left one stage of life, but you haven’t quite entered the next. The Frenchman Victor Hugo supposedly called forty the “old age of youth.”
I definitely agree with the author, ‘I can’t be thrilled about looking older’ and ‘ I feel like I’ve been promoted beyond my competence.’
The author asks: “ What is a grown up anyway? Do they really exist? If so what exactly do they know?”
She also writes, “You know there are no grown-ups. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.” So true.
To sum up the book by Pamela Druckerman, one must love life and not to take oneself too seriously and amongst many things, being a grown-up means to be yourself when you are with other people and to keep them at the distance you choose and to decide for yourself what matters.
This afternoon, I made some chocolate cookies and one of the grown-ups things I have done is not to eat all the cookies for dinner. To add my own line about growing old is that while most of us try to act in moderation, somehow certain peculiarities or die-hard stubborn streaks of ours grow with age. I go to a hairdresser with whom I have an interesting conversation whenever he attends to my hair. He is inclined to tell his clients to stop or minimize colouring their hair and be vigilant with their children about what they feed them. He cooks his own meals and he immerses himself in drawing and painting. After knowing him for more than two decades, he is still angry with his mother and the entire education system. I kind of get it that parents are responsible for bringing up their children, setting examples and not to subject them to any form of pain, abuse and hurt whether intentional or not. Perhaps we must accept that we are flawed individuals and ultimately each of us has to figure things out ourselves.
I agree with Druckerman that after turning forty, people are baffled and aren’t charmed anymore when we act adorably naïve. Somehow as one belongs to the aged, one is expected to be wise and sensible. Frankly, that is a terrible assumption. I cannot stop buying books even though I have tons of unread books. We are all quirky in our own ways and we have to trust ourselves even if we cannot.
There are No Grown- Ups is well written with the author’s insightful comments and self- deprecating humour about coming of age in mid-life. Pamela Druckerman click is an American journalist and writer living in Paris with her husband and their three children. She co-produced the documentary film ” The Forger” a 16-minute New York Times documentary about a Frenchman who forged documents to help children flee the Nazis and others escape atrocities around the world. click