This morning, my eldest child turned 13. Good that he’s lasted that long, yes. Great that everything works and he is growing properly and that he is exhibiting all the signs of a proper pantomime teenage villain, which you would expect, I suppose. He is never without this look on his face which is a painful, practiced distain – eyes to middle distance, mouth arranged in a neutral though joyless straight line, voice quiet and kind of muffled unless he is unleashing a surprising and shrieking death threat to the other kids if they dare to touch him or his stuff, ever. He is pretty tired too, which is probably just a result of the endless framing of the face – I imagine he wakes up perfectly happy but then remembers his life, his dreadful, tiresome, awful life shared with dreadful, tiresome, awful people and so he must employ his only weapon by rearranging his face into The Permanent Mask Of Teenage Emotional Distance Which Implies He Hates Us But Stops Short Of Actual Confirmation. I’ve seen this face every day for the last six months. Cases in point:
Note the terrifically pursed lips in the blue photo. MUST NOT SMILE OR SHOW ANY PLEASURE, EVER.
So he turned 13 today, as I said, and of course, like every other mother in the land since time immemorial, I am surprised and sad that my baby is growing up. He was all very sweet and booffy-of-hair once:
And I think I prefer the Infant to the Adolescent as a general concept, although I do like the way his legs are long in his tight jeans – he looks like he fronts an indie band. Plus he reads a lot, has quite a nice floppy Hugh Grant-esque wave to his hair and is good at art, so what am I complaining about? There is something fabulous about letting him stay up to watch Peaky Blinders for a bit, and he says he will come running with me sometime, and one day in many years time we shall meet at a pub and he will regale me with tales of his life and I will love it though I might be wailing on the inside, mourning the passage of time and my own inevitable march towards being aged and then dead.
In that vein, the only alternative to him getting older (as he so correctly put it this morning while I slumped around the flat all very morose and maudlin about his birthday) would be his own death. We don’t want that.
I do like the idea of permanent arrested (alive) development of my children – like a baby Maggie Simpson, always in the background somewhere, being quiet and cute and always about two, but then I don’t really, because then I would never go back to work and we’d have spent a lot on babysitters, plus a lot of time in doctor’s offices wondering what was wrong with the weird static kid. So, what do you do?
I read the Sunday Times piece on Helena Morrissey (you can’t read it because it is behind a paywall but she’s the head of personal investing for Legal & General – read: massive important well-paid City job) and she has nine kids and a Buddhist-monk husband and I thought THAT’S HOW YOU KEEP THEM LITTLE! YOU JUST KEEP HAVING THEM! THEN THEY HAVE KIDS AND YOU ALWAYS HAVE A BABY SOMEWHERE TO LOSE YOURSELF OVER! all of which I am tempted to keep doing, because…Girl!…might have one….would like one….not likely though….but I love babies….but there’s no room….but that’s never stopped us before…no cot though, sold it on eBay….but could buy another one….but I would be quite embarrassed and everyone would tell me it was time I stopped hiding behind small humans and GOT A JOB…but six is a lovely rounded number…but, no. I’ll have to learn to be content with the existing five. Maybe that thing you feel when you see old photos of them cute and fat and dopey and little is just a thing that you learn to sit with. Maybe it’s a beautiful thing that you willingly step into sometimes, just for you, remembering who you both were for a while, before something else took its place.
Anyway, tonight Barnaby has asked for dinner at GBK which is a win for all of us. I will drink some wine and try not to cry as I look around the table filled with little-ish boys on the turn and instead be grateful that I got the chance to experience all this mixed, mental loveliness at all.