I am not cool. I am old. I look ridiculous in my new dress and my cooking is not as good as I think it is. I know all this because my son told me, my Eldest son, to be precise.
It’s hard to go from being desperately needed “pretty mummy” not that long ago, to the object of disdain - sometimes. I should add that. It’s not always. It’s only sometimes. Most of the time he's lovely. And it's particularly not when he needs help with homework… or wants new clothes… or paint from the art shop… or to talk late at night … or when he proffers his forehead for my kiss… or at the front door when he’s about to leave…
I understand. I think. My Good Old Friend, in the playground at school, she says he has to pull away from me to find himself, it's his age, she’s read a book about it. As his nurturer, his primary carer, and a woman, rejecting me is a right of passage: becoming a man… something like that. It doesn’t mean he won’t come back. I know it’s true. I know deep down he’s still the same.
He may say “shoo!” when I walk in to his room to check he’s doing his revision. He may say that I’m living in a “bubble of my own narcissism” at the hairdressers when I’m about to spend £20 on his haircut (he must have heard that line somewhere…it’s rather good).
Actually, when he said that, as we were waiting, just after I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he replied that he hates everything I cook and doesn’t need to eat most of the time anyway (he knows where to put the knife), I lent towards him and hissed quietly into his ear: “Don’t you dare speak to me like that. I’m about to spend 2o quid on your haircut and I drove you here and I went back for your hoodie when you’d forgotten it, because it’s cold, and I am this far away,” and I held up my thumb and forefinger to indicate an incredibly small distance, “from walking out of here and leaving you with no money."
And he got it, to give him his due, he knew I meant it: he apologised, profusely, straightaway, as well he might. He looked terrified. I’m sorry, he said, I’m really sorry, I just feel angry and I don’t know why (I know why, it was because it was lunchtime and he hadn’t eaten any breakfast). It took the wind out of my sails, to be honest: that apology. I couldn’t be cross anymore when really I wanted to carry on being cross for a bit longer. I had to gulp my anger back down. Because I understood.
I remember what it is to be fifteen and to feel… well… to feel cross and to feel things, words, coming out of your mouth and not being able to control them and wanting to backtrack and really needing someone to understanding and be tolerant and let it go, at least sometimes. So on that occasion, I did. I do. At least, I try.
And I know sometimes I am cool because he asks me about music and film and fashion, even about my work occasionally, and because the other day I found him listening to Bob Dylan and I showed him the film of Subterranean Homesick Blues on YouTube. You know the one, with all the words on pieces of card, that he throws away as he sings them in the street. And he watched it, nonchalantly, like he wasn’t particularly interested in anything I liked. And then later, a few days later, I saw Middle One watching it in the office. “Have you seen this!” he said, “it’s so cool! Eldest showed it to me.”
And I know sometimes he thinks I look ok, too, because of the look on his face when I ask his opinion, just before I’m going out somewhere, asking for trouble, like an idiot, when he doesn’t say I look stupid and old and there isn’t a grimace, only a slight nod of the head instead.
And I know he mostly likes my cooking because he eats it and because he says he does, which he knows pleases me, which is why he was tormenting me about it.
And I know he has to grow up and on the way he has to hurt me, sometimes, and all that jazz. But still, it’s hard. Because I love him so much.