The apple of my eyes

21st January 2005 at 00:00
Twenty years ago, I gazed at the thin blue line and realised I was pregnant.

It was a heart stopping moment and, as the waves of euphoria swept through me, so did a little voice, telling me that I had gone to a place from which there was no going back.

The health visitor made me cry by writing in her notes that he was a scrawny baby, then spitefully leaving them behind. So much for freedom of information - I never recovered from that belief that I couldn't provide well enough for my boy.

The scrawny one is bigger than me now, and so is the next, equally skinny, one. Photographs follow their progress - my beautiful babies, my enchanting toddlers, my grinning gap-toothed little boys. Easy to forget the broken nights, arms, windows, the tears and tantrums of those early days.

My kids are smart - it never occurred to me that they wouldn't grow up, go to university, find wives. I have even bought a tiny jacket for a grandchild, dammit (pink velvet, with brocade and lace, size 0, reduced to a fiver in Monsoon). I think I have learnt that I now have very little influence over their choices.

I believe in education with a passion: I still see it as a stepping-stone from one world into another. I want my boys to be socially mobile (as long as it's up) and they are welcome to get on their bikes to widen their horizons.

Yet I have lads who like their world now, and don't want to leave. They don't care about passing exams. They have that casual carelessness of youth, which I can just about remember if I really try.

I love my boys with an intensity that takes my breath away. And I have always tried hard to bring them up to be independent, honest and moral.

It's hard to accept that their values aren't mine. Or at least to have the patience for them to work through theirs and end up with mine - which I have little doubt will happen.

The other day, I was brushing my hair and suddenly recognised that movement. Looked in the mirror and saw my mother peering back. Then I remembered how nothing I did was ever right, how much she disliked my short skirts, arrogance and casual rudeness. She couldn't wait for me to leave home, and now I could identify with a feeling that 20 years of child-rearing is quite enough.

As I drag back through the memories of my adolescence, I recognise the boys' lazy, rude attitude and my impatience and intolerance. Like mother, like sons. Like mother, like daughter.

My boys will become men. Hopefully, that little scrap of impractical velvet will be worn. I will grow old and die and my men will become impatient with their teenagers.

Full circle.

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