Give me the boy …

Hat sits on the floor beside me as I write. She is scratching through a chest (painted green with thick rope handles) of Lego – it was her big brother’s. The sound, a soft, friendly clatter as she digs to find precisely the right piece, is achingly familiar. As is the shrapnel that finds its way across the floor and into my bare sole later.

I watch her face and her fingers. She is absorbed. Architect of – she tells me – a sheriff’s office. And a jail. I can see cacti outside. A mustachioed Mexican and several hatless cowboys.

Childhood tears past in a blur. The box of Lego anchors me briefly, reminds me of the Mum I used to be: hotly, hugely and often crossly in demand. For just a moment Hat is the tenuous link that straddles two parts of a job.
.
I read clever, funny, poignant posts of early mothering madness, of the things children say, of potty training, of horrendous birthday parties. I am glad those mums are recording the things I did not. Their recollections remind me of the stuff I did not know I remembered until prompted. It seems like yesterday that I was there. It seems like decades ago. How does that happen? That a thing seems both recent and so far away all at the same time?

My mum told me – an indignant 25 and wondering where my waist and my social life had gone as I furiously and tearfully wheeled a belligerent three month old around in a pram willing him to sleep so that I could – ‘don’t mind it so much, he will be little for so brief a time’.

Like I said: a blur.

But oddly – and miraculously– despite the speed with which our children grow up, so we apparently (if you didn’t know any better) seamlessly morph into different kinds of mums. (Mother Nature’s a canny old bird).

I am still feeling my way around my evolving role – steering an almost-adult not raising a child. Still trying to comprehend, just as I had to broken nights and breast-feeding, the Oxford Reading Tree and Kumon maths, what it’s all about.

I am trying to navigate my way around UCAS applications so that I might be of some use; I am trying to exert patience with a boy who grunts until tea time but finds his voice as his mother is going to bed (and so I am getting better at stifling yawns); I am getting wiser about asking too many questions (just enough, and definitely no stupid ones); I am beginning not to mind that whilst a small child begs you to Watch Mum, Watch Me!, an older one – despite loving the attention – will feign utter indifference.

I don’t always do very well.

You don’t when you’re learning to let go of the ropes.

I still miss the old job. I still miss baby-fat hands reaching up to me; I still miss inhaling the scent of soft flyaway hair atop small heads (my friend E, with her three-year old boy on her knee sniffs deeply and describes it as peppery but I cannot remember it well enough to agree); I still miss reading Babette Cole at bedtime and eating leftover Marmite soldiers.

But slowly and tentatively as I locate my new place in my son’s world (I think I have been very gently but very sweetly and subtly nudged sideways, just a bit, just enough to give him the space to become the man he needs to be – as my friend H, who has three sons, observes, ‘we must hope our boys’ women like us or the distance will be greater’) so I find my feet in my own changing one. Enough to begin to enjoy it a little.

When we rendezvous in two weeks time for the Easter holidays, he, my nearly 18 year old, will envelop me in a hug that takes my breath away (God, he’s got strong! I will think – though I will not embarrass him – or myself! – by saying as much), he will carry my suitcase and shoulder both our laptops importantly, he will check us onto our flight (for the practice, we will tell each other, for he will be on the other side of the world next year) and it will be him I dispatch to get me a cold beer.

Which we will share.

ben

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28 Responses to “Give me the boy …”

  1. lulu campbell Says:

    I am so there with you….It’s such a learning curve, but don’t you just love having such big strong almost men? Lxx

  2. The Finely Tuned Woman Says:

    I lost my son to cancer when he was 29 years old, but I remember him becoming a man and how embarrassed he was if I openly showed affection when he was a teenager and trying to be manly. He was a good kid, though, and showed his love in many other different ways. You just have to learn to look for it in other different places with boys. They never stop having that special affection for you that boys have for their moms. No other woman gets in the way of that even.

  3. Expat Mum Says:

    Having two teenagers myself (plus the “watch me, watch me” five year old) I am almost where you are. It’s exciting though. Thinking about the potential before them, the adventures they are going to have, and what they will become.

  4. R. Sherman Says:

    Absolutely marvelous.

    My eldest is 17; my elder son 13 and the “baby” is now 10. I regret not writing more as the matured in front of my eyes. Very, very rarely do I “self link” in comments, because I think it’s unseemly, but this post reminded me of one of mine.

    Cheers, dear.

  5. More than Just a Mother Says:

    beautiful post, as always. And thank you for your gentle words and your link to my mad musings. I find it impossible to imagine my children as adults, or near-adults, just as – I guess – you did when your own were still small.

  6. fulltimemums Says:

    One of the reasons I love reading your posts RM, is that from time to time you throw in just a little reminder of how fleeting the stage that I’m now at actually is. I try to remember to stop and smell the roses, but so often forget; thanks for helping me stay focused on that. (And for the link, obviously!).

  7. Potty Mummy Says:

    Don’t quite know what happened with my previous comment RM – apologies, was not trying to ravel incognito!

  8. Iota Says:

    So the lego gets into your sole as well as your soul…

  9. alison Says:

    thanks for the sweet reminder to cherish the long days with little ones!

  10. Kit Says:

    Poignant post, and just what I’ve been thinking now all mine are out of the baby and toddler stage. they all went and slept over at their aunt’s on the weekend and the house felt strangely empty and quiet and we welcomed the noise and mess as they returned. I know the time will go all too quickly from now on and soon they will be the age your son is and stretchig their wings too.

  11. paradise lost in translation Says:

    I hope I do adjust as the independence grows & the apron strings grow slacker. It frightens me. I so love the stage now & even pine that there are no more babies, no more toddlers, we’ve entered the next stage already, so quickly. And however exahusting at times, I love the noise, chaos, fun of small wide-eyed ‘the world is new’ children.
    A very poignant post. Thank you.

  12. Mud Says:

    Beautiful. In giving your son some space you are ensuring that he will want to keep those bonds strong.

    Can’t be easy though!

  13. grit Says:

    i shall go off and kiss squirrel, shark, and tiger now, while they are still so little. today, they have been playing in the garden sunshine, and are seventy per cent adorable (marks lost for screaming).x

  14. MDTaz Says:

    I don’t know what to say. You make me pause and think. Sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through it, like it can’t happen fast enough and I’m wishing for things to change and grow so I can get something back, something that I gave away so long ago I wouldn’t even know where to find it. Then, a day later – or maybe just an hour later – the light is different on them, they look older, they say something differently, and then it’s all clear and all I want to do is grab the clock and draw the hands back into a suspended state. Move faster, time. No, freeze, time. No, wait. And then I remember, they are only guests in our home.

  15. rosiero Says:

    I too loved the baby stage, adored the toddler phase and the infant period, but now I have a young woman of seventeen (also incidentally grappling with UCAS applications) who is a true friend to me. All those phases so different, yet each one as good , if not better, than the one before.

  16. Roberta Says:

    You are doing fine! I know the emotions are so overwhelming!

    But you know? Outpost has given you the ablility to step back, remember and savour everything you are experiencing.

    My oldest is ten years beyond yours. I look at him now and remember his blanket and his worries and am proud of all he has become.

    You are and have done the absolute right thing with your children. You continue to do so… as do we all.

  17. suse Says:

    You write so beautifully and with piercing accuracy about living with ‘almost men’ Although i have only one myself , my other two children are very grown up young women of almost 25 and 28, but going through the late teens with them was very differant to the path i am now treading with my son of 19. Your mention of feeling the need to listen when they want to talk resonates particularly with me, as does their assumtion of authority at times. They do indeed operate on a differnt timetable.But i am so aware that there may be a time when he doesnt turn to me that i try to be available when he does want to chat.
    I am sure your manchild is very grateful for your efforts

  18. Dulwich Divorcee Says:

    Such a lovely post.

  19. Yvonne Says:

    I remember being one of four mothers on a maternity ward with our first babies. One mother was writing in a book, her diary for her child when he was older. I thought at the time, what a great idea, but didn`t follow the thought. It`s the same with our parents, do we ever ask enough questions?

  20. Mr Farty Says:

    Babette Cole, it must be more than twenty years since I helped Little Miss Farty pronounce that name. How it brings the memories back. Thanks.

  21. Kit Says:

    Hi again! I don’t whether you do blog awards and such, but if you do I have one on my blog for you. I really enjoy your beautiful writing!

  22. Tash Says:

    been away, but nice to be back in relmemland…. Very nice… xx

  23. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    i do Lulu; i do x

    Finely Tuned: i was so sorry to read about the loss of your son. You’re right though: shy evidence of the love they feel for their moms pops through a trying-to-be-tough veneer in the most surpsing and breath-taking ways.

    It is Expat, keeping a pulse of that growing beat can be frightening but it’s awesome to think you might have played a small part.

  24. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Beautiful, Mr Sherman; beautiful. Sometimes – you see – self linking is very important. Thank you.

    More Than: when faced with nappies and sleepless nghts and all the cliches of babyhood, i thought i’d be there forever, buried beneath the detritus of mothering. Alas i have found it vanishes all too quickly.

    Glad you came back minus the disguise Potty!

    Oh it does, Iota, it does.

  25. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks alison.

    and Kit – and for the award; thank you – that’s just it isn’t. We think we’re going to love the peace and quiet but we don’t, not for long, for the happy, loud, chaos has become a part of our norm. Once, when we were still young parents, i went to england with small childlen leaving husband behind. he tidied up the house, putting toys and teddies away. sat down to revel in the harmony he had created. and felt so appallingly miserably lonely that he got all the children’s paraphenalia out again. to keep him company until our return.

    paradise, well done for loving the bit now, the bit in between the babies and the grown up and going stage. that’s the key to not finding the next bit as frightening. i’m sure of it.

    oh i do hope so Mud, i do hope so.

  26. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Grit: marks lost for screaming. Love it!

    MD: that was beautiful, a perfect description of the sentiments all mothers share. My own used to admonish me, ”don’t wish your life away” as i willed Xmas/my birthday/lunchtime to hurry up. I think – as parents – we should try to adopt similar approach to our jobs, ”don’t wish their childhoods away”. But that’s easier said than done when you’re exhausted and they’re screaming! Remember this too though: i once ask my mum when i could expect my son, three at the time, to behave more reasonably. She looked at me askance. ”Never”, she said. The jobs just changes. It doesn’t ever get easier. Because you never stop caring.

    rosiero, you’re right. It’s about being able to change with them though. to keep up. to understand they’re going to need us to be different at every step too.

  27. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    ah thank you Roberta. I try to remember that about the Outpost; that it has given me time (too much time!) to reflect. sometimes that is not a good thing. But mostly it is; mostly it is a luxury few enjoy. Time to think and ponder and put those thoughts to a page. It helps to sort my head out.

    Thank you very much suse. And i am heartened to understand that other mums of man-children are at the same place. We were good at comparing parenting notes as new mums. the assumption is we know what we’re doing as they get older. but we don’t. i don’t!

    Thank you Dulwich. And for dropping by.

    No Yvonne we don’t. and we ought to. by the time the questions come, they might have gone. i will always be sorry i didn’t ask Dad more.

  28. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Mr Farty. wasn’t she marvellous? Babette? I loved her story about where babies came from especially. A wonderful early expose to birds and bees and with such humour and wit and illustrations.

    Thank you Tash. Nice to see you back x

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