My eldest son is a lovely child, he is kind, considerate, funny, intelligent, adventurous and brave. He is also stroppy, lazy, incoherent, fickle and has selective hearing.
When I became a Mum for the first time it was an amazing experience for me. I had been told that I was unlikely to fall pregnant due to “women’s problems”, so in the early years of mine and hubby’s relationship, we decided to put the parenting issue on the back burner, as it looked unlikely to happen and enjoy our free time.
I booked a flight to America to visit a dear friend of mine who lived in Atlanta, my first long haul flight alone. I’m not the keenest flight passenger but I managed to endure the 9 hours thanks to 2 back-to-back Lord of the Rings films and copious amounts of chocolate. Once on American soil, without the experience of being prepared for their tough immigration and a lack of postal address for my friend’s house, I was escorted to a holding room much to the glares of my fellow passengers and seated beside a rather pleasant bearded man who had roused suspicions. The Immigration Officer tried calling my friend’s phone number while I tried to explain that she was in Arrivals waiting my arrival. Thankfully, without the use of a lie detector test I was allowed into the country. Over the next few days I found myself feeling completely exhausted and incredibly hungry all of the time. My friend after nudging me awake for the umpteenth time at a restaurant was concerned I was having an extreme reaction to jet lag. And even when I had taken to eating 3 breakfasts consisting of cream cheese and tomatoes on toast with a smothering of maple syrup, I thought my appetite was in “holiday mode”. Needless to say, I was not alone, a little stowaway had joined me for my trip but this revelation was still furthest from my mind.
When I arrived home, complaining to hubby that I had put on 8 lbs in a week I decided to join Weight Watchers with my Mum as clearly my metabolism had slowed down, I was approaching my 30s after all. When I had been weighed, measured and lectured at my first meeting, I returned home via the supermarket to get a pregnancy test, on the off-chance. Me and hubby sat and watched the little pee stick with smug anticipation that it would be a negative when all of a sudden I saw the 2 lines appear, shocked would be the understatement of the century! After another 5 tests all producing the same result, my Doctor confirmed that I was with child!
I really enjoyed my pregnancy and I know that sounds a bit Earth Mother of me but I really didn’t expect that I would ever get to do it. I had my moments with morning sickness having my back rubbed by a London Underground train guard after having to jump off the central line when the nausea awoke. But I was so excited about becoming a Mum, more so then I ever expected I would be. I took a year off from my high-flying career in television without a moments doubt, pretty certain I would never be the same employee even if I did return to work, which I knew was unlikely.
On 24 December 2003 at 9.47pm, after 27 hours of labour (that is such an accurate word for the experience!), our baby boy was born. He was a gorgeous baby though fairly demanding with his feeding and lack of sleeping. Our nightly feed routine consisted of me feeding baby, then passing him to hubby who burped him. He was quite a nocturnal baby and I remember one night after the fourth twilight feed, passing him to hubby and dosing off only to wake up an hour later to find baby in his Moses basket and hubby burping the dog. Sleep deprivation is a peculiar thing!
After I decided to not return to my job and just do the odd bit of temping to make ends meet, me and baby boy had oodles of time together. We did every play club, swimming, picnics in the park and spending a whole day in a homemade camp in the living room. It is easier with one, I realise that now with 3! We had our moments, he was a fussy eater and would drive me insane with his food refusal, especially as I had prepared some complicated Annabel Karmel recipe from scratch. Try explaining to a 2-year-old how infuriating it is blanching and peeling tomatoes for a pasta sauce when he is only going to feed it to the dog.
But I was his world in those formative years, clinging to my leg on the first day of pre school while I literally dragged him in and watched through the window as the tears kept coming, mine that is not his. Me and hubby helped him to learn to swim, ride a bike, make cakes, everything he did, Mummy and Daddy had to do it with him. I was dwarfed with affection to the point where he wouldn’t go to sleep unless I laid on the bed with him so he could play with my ear lobe, this became increasingly difficult when I was heavily pregnant with twins! And when the twins arrived, he was so good, very welcoming and considerate to them and me. All the family made sure he wasn’t excluded and I told him almost hourly that he was still my special boy.
He started school and I immersed myself in toddler twins, no easy task I can tell you but that’s a whole other blog! He asserted his independence from me, which I encouraged as he made new friends and his teachers replaced me in the hierarchy during the day, but he was a good boy and so keen about school. Loved homework, folded his uniform, read his books to the twins who in turn tried to chew them.
Then last September he started Junior School and something changed. His enthusiasm had started to deplete, his hunger for learning was replaced with a hunger for all things not school related, Football, his Nintendo DS, Football, Wii, Football and did I mention Football? From the minute he wakes up to the second he closes his eyes it’s Football Football Football. I’ll ask “how was school today?”, he’ll reply “S’alright, did you know Drogba is considering a move to Barcelona?” I now know more about the formation of football teams in the Premiership than most sports commentators on Sky! But I try to indulge his interests as they are so few and far between now, he is in a football team and hubby takes him to see a game when we can afford it.
I think back to my 2-year-old boy, who would hang on my every word and get excited about my every suggestion. And now I look at my 8-year-old boy who gives a big sigh whenever he is asked to do anything, asks “do I have to go?” when I suggest a trip out somewhere and sulks when anything other than football is on the TV. What’s most frustrating is when he answers me back with a stroppy reply and when reprimanded by me, he will stare back with a blank expression so I’m left thinking all he heard, while I was ranting my lecture to him, was the voice of the teacher from Snoopy!
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children equally but I miss the innocence of number one son, we still have our moments when he grabs me for an unexpected cuddle or asks my advice about school. But these moments are too infrequent and the feet dragging, “it’s so not fair” and bottom lip pouting have increased. I understand I’m not alone and that things can only get worse in some ways when he hits the real teenage years. But I have faith in him, he is still that sweet little boy, just sharing a personality with Kevin the Teenager at the moment.