This week, youngest son turned 17. Now, everyone in our house is legally allowed to turn the ignition key in a car, although I am still wondering at what age any of my sons needs to be to voluntarily load the dishwasher.
Once again I am caught feeling slightly dizzy as to how quickly time has passed, everyone says it but it is still a mystery to me where the time goes. How can it be possible that my tiny, easy-going baby Jack, who was once an almost permanent fixture by my side, either balanced on my hip or pushing his clammy sticky hand into mine, can now be in charge of a vehicle capable of reaching life-threatening speed?
I still remember his two brothers coming to meet him in hospital, old enough to be fascinated by his tiny limbs and aware of his possible usefulness if he learnt kick a ball in the nearish future, but happy to scarper off home to have their tea without much of a backward glance at this new member of the family. Surely there is something’s wrong with the maths, it feels like he should still only six and making dens in the garden with Ikea packaging and his little gang of friends, or twelve and illegally playing his brothers’ Grand Theft Auto. Certainly not 17, taller than me by nearly a foot and capable of eating most of his hokey pokey birthday cake before heading out for a proper supper.
On his birthday we took him out for a family supper, his absolute base-line for celebrating. He doesn’t really care what we do so long as we all get together as a family and go somewhere interesting to eat (Mark Hix’s new Tramshed restaurant, since you are asking, a perfect carnivore heaven). And where we grew up being happy to receive half a dozen birthday cards sent through the post, ours monitor a million birthday messages via their preferred social network ” I love birthday’s’ he said to me as he came home from school, phone still pinging, “It’s the one day everyone reassures you they still love you’.
But what made me realise he was really grown up and doing fine on his own was something that happened right at the end of our evening (well, at about 10.00pm which is the end of middleagedad and my’s evening but about half way through his). It was a small thing and as I was discussing with my new friend Gok Wan (below) it’s the small things that count in life much more than the big ones*….
As they walked off down the road, easy in each other’s company and looking like proper men I was overcome with a feeling that this was what really mattered, this strong but simple feeling that they were more than happy to celebrate with each other, without me or MAD.
We may have had many traumas and tears in the years that have sped by but the simple fact that they get on together and are happy to hang out at the pub with each other makes me well-up with emotion. You can’t make your children like each other, I know it took me decades to realise how fabulous a person my sister was, but then I am slow on the uptake. My three are very different characters, they often fought and moaned about each other when they were little, but now they can wander off to the pub and make themselves happy just being together. It’s a small thing, and it’s a long way from that hospital room and their tentative first meeting but it has generated a huge feeling of happiness in me that perhaps something went ok.
Now, perhaps someone can tell me how I get them to help load the dishwasher?
*OK, so I am showing off with my picture of Gok here, but we were working together this week on an Activia UK campaign called the Feel Good Pledge, which involved looking at the small things in life that make us feel better so there is a (tenuous, I’ll admit) link. I’ll blog about it soon.