How often when I was young did someone admonish me with those words. "Act your age." What did that actually mean? It always seemed to mean that I was being childish or immature and should be more sensible. But, when you're 10 or 15, well, you are often childish and immature. Why should that not be allowed?
You're only as old as you feel. Well, yes, but some days I feel ancient. Other days I'm a spring chicken!
These days I think a lot about my age. Not because of wrinkles and white hair. I'm not vain enough to care too much if I look my age at 60. But, as friends have observed, and I feel it too, when we are with our very elderly parents we have to be the young, energetic ones.
We do their shopping, organise various workmen, lug rollators into the boot of the car when once we lugged buggies. We help with TV and IT problems over the phone, patiently trying to explain passwords and routers, even though we know much less about all that than the young people in our lives. We try and be there for hospital appointments and ring doctors, dentists and opticians to try and make their lives go more smoothly, all the while being careful not to make them feel they are losing control.
When we are with our children – now young adults – we have to be energetic enough to cook meals, make up beds and make home feel as welcoming as possible. We can still give them lifts to the train station or pick them up from airports. Hopefully we listen and give advice when needed, but also listen quietly when they talk about their worlds of work and lives of which we are only a small part.
I am half way between my mother and parents-in-law who are all 90 - and my eldest son – just over 30. I suppose I am part of the 'sandwich generation' and I am lucky that I have my health and am still more able to give support than to need it.
On the one hand, I have to keep going with my own interests, hobbies and fitness regimes so that I can stave off the day when I need lifts to the doctor and dentist. On the other hand, I need to be able to drop everything if there's an emergency with any of our elderly parents. Or to help with the myriad administrative tasks that my young people don't have time for during their busy working lives.
Each day is a fresh challenge. And I don't even have grandchildren yet.
I hope that my mental and physical health will remain robust enough to be the stabilising fulcrum in the lives of my elderly relatives and my adult children.
How old do you feel? And does that change from day to day, depending on who you're with and what you're doing?
If we "act our age" let's not rely on the mirror to give us a clue as to what that means!
A Moodscope member.