Usually my claustrophobia only kicks in when I’m on a plane and I distract myself with absorbing magazine stories about people whose spouses have run off with their kidney and an alien, but this time the panic and urge to run is happening in my own kitchen.
Middle Child, who is conducting a fridge sweep, has kicked it off by musing about the future…
“There’re three of us and we’ll all have maybe three kids each, that’s nine grandchildren for you…”
Nine grandchildren! He’s kidding. And what’s this “for you” chat. As in “for you to look after”.
I’m two decades into this wonderful, fulfilling, journey/gruelling marathon of poverty and drudgery and I had thought I could see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. But now I realise it’s Thomas the Tank Engine trundling down the tracks towards me.
I think about my friends, the bolters, the sensible ones who had children in their twenties and are now free to relocate to inconvenient, sunny locations, or hit the festival trail in camper vans.
“Of course you had a late baby,” they say, with such disapproval you’d think I’d confessed to a liaison with Charlie Sheen. Come on, I was still in my thirties, hardly Janet Jackson.
Not that they don’t love their grandkids. “Aw my wee whatsit is soooo cute, but you just do the fun stuff and give them back. If our kids want kids, they’re the parents. Not us. We’ve done our bit. You need to sell up and move abroad, otherwise they’ll never go,” advises one.
“You’ve only got about a decade left,” says another, “get on with it!”
Stay calm, I think, keep making the tea, as Youngest enters the kitchen.
“Are you still living here?” she says.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” I reply.
“Not you, him.” She indicates her brother.
“Actually, I was thinking of maybe selling up and moving abroad. With you, of course,” I say to her.
“Great idea,” says Middle. “We’d all love a change of scene. Where shall we go?”