…and I’m sitting on the bottom stair in our old house, and I’m biting onto my knuckles, because, upstairs, our two week old baby boy is crying, and my wife has been taken into hospital with mastitis, septicaemia and God knows what else, and I’m scared witless, and I haven’t got a clue what to do.
Quite a levelling experience, altogether. Fortunately, we muddle through and after a couple of weeks, we’re back to a fragile three again, and we start enjoying the first of a number of small people that are to enter our lives over the next eight years.
So, he starts to respond differently after a couple of weeks, and we get past that point where you’re not sure if he’s smiling or not, and he’s got a face that melts your heart, and everything starts feeling pretty right with the world.
And he starts crawling and talking and walking and it all goes really fast and before you know it he’s holding his baby brother in his arms and tickling him, and they’re both giggling away, and that’s pretty good.
And he toddles off to nursery school and learns songs about crocodiles and parachutes and makes friends that last him right up to now, and all the time he’s getting this really great sense of humour, and he’s naughty without being horrible, and that’s all pretty good too.
And, before we know it, he’s at school, and cutting quite a dash in his grey shorts as he goes off for his first day, and he loves it to bits, and he really likes learning, and all that seems to fall into place. And he starts getting those crazes, and the one that really sticks it the guitar and he starts practising for hours, and he gets really good at it, and I couldn’t be more proud. And we go for hours with me running and him on his bike and he tells me all about the absolute ideal colour for a stratocaster, and I couldn’t be less interested in that as a specific subject, but it’s just great to hear him so excited, and eventually we go to a guitar shop with his birthday and Christmas money and buy an Epiphone Casino that’s almost as tall as he is, and he sits down to play it and, you know, he’s really quite good. So he plays in a few bands and loves it, then he starts playing drums and he’s pretty good at that as well, and we start sharing all those stories about Things That Happen At Gigs, and that’s all good too.
And he does pretty well at school, and takes a few chances, and makes a few mistakes, and goes through those rites of passage as he learns to drive, and (separately) learns to drink, and meets a girl, then stops meeting the girl, and all the time he’s handling it pretty well, and it’s great to have him around, and before you know it he’s the third adult in the relationship, and telling his parents to grow up when they argue, and you can’t help but laugh. And he runs his first half marathon, then runs his first marathon, and we get to see him cross the line, and because we’ve both run marathons we know what that’s like, and there are moments like that where you just want to freeze time because its really not going to get much better than this.
And he gets his place at University, and it’s his absolute first choice, so he’s chuffed to bits, and after a fabulous summer he packs everything he needs into the car and gets deposited into a little room that reminds me of a Cat B prison I once visited, but which he absolutely loves, and we go away from there thinking that actually, these things can sometimes work out quite well.
And then a couple of weeks later, we’ve just come off the phone to him, and we’re talking about him in the kitchen, and his younger brother puts ‘Wish You Were Here’ on the stereo, and there’s that line about ‘two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year’, and I just start crying.
And it’s not because I didn’t want him to grow up and it’s not because I selfishly want to have him around all the time. It’s because we won’t get to see the world through his eyes any more, because over the next few years, we’re going to feel like this a few more times, and because, well, you’re allowed to miss people when they’re not around, aren’t you?
Well, it was about twenty years ago that Mrs E’s mother gave her the fairly mature advice that she should enjoy every minute of being a parent, because you only ever borrow your kids. It’s only taken twenty fairly wonderful years to understand what she meant.