With the unconscious wisdom of youth, my son decided that he would give me a games console. It is not, perhaps, the obvious gift for a woman about to enter her seventh decade, but then, he assures me that as I am a ‘tweenager’, it is entirely appropriate.
When the boys were young we always made sure they were up to date with the growing technological revolution. From the blocky arcade games of the ancient Atari to our first home computer, they soon became confident with consoles and keyboards and we played as a family, working out the puzzles, learning how to share, to be patient and to persevere in the days when games took ages to load and progress could not be saved.
Spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, foresight, reaction times and logic were all well-served, Games that now look primitive were often complex and demanding and to complete them was a real triumph. We have fond memories of those times. The software available for the Commodore 64 and the old Sinclair Spectrum even allowed you, with a little vary basic knowledge, to build your own games. Such violence as there was tended to be of the ‘Tom and Jerry’ variety, with little or no relation to reality and gameplay was often as much of an intellectual challenge as a test of manual dexterity. We hoped that introducing the boys to technology early would stand them in good stead in later years and that has indeed proved to be the case.
I am decades behind the times where technology is concerned these days. Modern consoles do more than play games, it seems, allowing you to access your PC, play music and films and do much of what I now do at the computer from the comfort of the sofa, which can only be a good thing… as long as the dog lets me share. All the skills that early gaming honed for the boys are ones that need to be maintained in later years… and oddly enough, I kept the best of the old games. So, in an unexpected role reversal, my son is giving his tweenage mother a games console for her birthday.
I rather like the idea of entering my tweenage years. The term is usually applied to prepubescent children, but works equally well for those in the nameless limbo between later decades. It sounds better than ‘dotage’ or ‘incipient old-age’, and my son has been accusing me of regressing for quite a while now. I like that idea too; the old saying that ‘youth is wasted on the young’ should really be embraced by those on the threshold of a second childhood. Why should we wait until others apply that term to us in a derogatory manner, when we can throw ourselves into our second childhood head first and enjoy it?
When you consider the characteristics of a child, and the outlook of those older folk who seem to radiate joy, there is little difference. While the young have not yet learned to distrust the motives of people and events, the old have garnered enough experience to see straight through any subterfuge, dismissing the absurdities of human nature, so those at both extremities of life may see the world through clear and untroubled eyes.
The very young do not concern themselves with the far distant future and nor do the very old. At the beginning of life, the future is so far distant that it is impossible to envisage, while at the tail end of life it is so close it becomes transparent. Now matters; for the very young, there is nothing else… later, as tomorrows become increasingly uncertain, there seems little point wasting energy peering into your own unreliable future.
Small children care little about the opinion of others, it is a learned behaviour acquired as a reaction to dismissal and rejection, both real and perceived. The passing years bring a freedom from worrying about how the world judges us too… and this happens at a time when, for many, the responsibilities of the daily grind are lessened as our offspring sculpt lives of their own and grandchildren allow us to play as children again ourselves.
Granted, that is not the story for everyone, but I believe we all have the capacity to access at least some part of the inner exuberance of youth, even when the body is no longer willing to play with as much flexibility as we might like.
Life was carefree as a very small child. I remember those childhood years… the early ones before things got complicated. I remember how it felt to walk barefoot in the snow, laugh at raindrops racing on windowpanes or covering my skin with tiny, tickling diamonds. I remember making daisy chains, blowing dandelion ‘clocks’ to tell the time and digging up bits of pottery from the school playground, wanting as much to be an archaeologist as a dancer. I remember walking on walls, hunting crabs in rock pools and laying in the grass watching caterpillars. I remember feeling every day was an adventure.
With his gift my son has given me more than a games console, he gave me a timely reminder. I don’t need to remember any more. I just need to do it again.