Eleven! Eleven I ask you? How can this possibly have happened? I’m sure it was only a couple of months ago that he arrived in the world. Late as usual.
James, my son, likes to keep us waiting. I was forty one before I managed to become pregnant, he didn’t come out until three weeks after his due date … “are you expecting a boy or a girl?”, “good grief I’ll be delighted if it’s a baby and not,” as I was starting to suspect “a donkey”… took thirty six hours in the process and has kept us waiting ever since.
I am a naturally impatient person; I have always had the view that if a job is worth doing, then it’s worth getting out of the way and ticking off on the list as quickly as possible… a brief glance at my hand writing would demonstrate that admirably. So James and I have provided one another with excellent sources of personal challenge from day one. He has learnt to eat fast because that was how the poor chap got fed when I was then one controlling the spoon. I have learnt that there are times when self distraction with a good book or a remedial trip to the vegetable garden can be a wise move.
And here we are, this Friday will be his eleventh birthday. The minutes drag their feet, but the years rush by faster than a home made rocket out of a coke bottle.
But what have these eleven years been taken up by? Was it valuable? Was it fulfilling?
There seems to have been a lot of waiting around outside loos. He has tended to wait for going to the loo until the last possible moment and he was absolutely desperate; then gone to the bathroom just as everyone is trying to get out the door to go to some important, and time sensitive, event. Once safely closeted in the bathroom he would find something peaceful and interesting to occupy his mind while his mother fried on the other side of the locked door. What happens when you stick your thumb over a fully flowing tap? What interesting patterns can be made out of soap bubbles? What happens if you put the whole lavatory roll down the pan all at once?
Things were rarely done before the third time of asking. Whether it be to come and eat, do his homework, go to bed, whatever. He has become so good at this one that he actually no longer hears the first two requests. Becoming cross and raising my voice makes no difference, I’ve experimented with changing the order of my degrees of urgency so-to-speak… it makes no difference, the earliest he will respond is on the third time of asking.
And bath times… which, while they have been, unquestionably, not as frequent as bath times really should be, do seem to have taken up a significant amount of time. Firstly, there’s the thinking about them; the studying of finger nails, the shock at the amount of mud he can keep on his feet, the interesting colours his neck can achieve… After which, there has been the essential resistance to the actual idea of going for a bath for as long as I can remember and for as long as the process can be drawn out… THEN and only then, he has such a great time in said bath that it is impossible to get him out without the use of lengthy coercive negotiations.
Followed, of course, by extensive mopping.
One cannot overstate the quantity of time that has been wasted on good old fashioned ‘doing things slowly’. Diversionary tactics are employed; chatting lengthily is a really effective one… hard to tell him to hurry up, because by doing so, one interrupts what he is saying, thereby risking the appearance of disinterest which, of course, would make one a bad parent.
Oh yes, homework. That’s a corker that one, which provides endless opportunity for time consumption. I can never come to understand why, bearing in mind that he doesn’t like homework, he doesn’t just get it out of the way as quickly and effectively as possible… (my own view on homework is reflected, both in paragraph three of this article, and in my educational grades)… But no; work that was planned by his caring, and eternally optimistic, teacher to take up no more than half an hour of his precious weekend, unsupervised I’ll have you know, can take the whole family anything up to four hours of stress, arguments and heartache that would leave most parents in dire need of a stiff drink and early bed.
Eleven years… There must have been other stuff too… cuddles, laughter, embarrassment (his, caused by me rather than the reverse), tears, apologies (I’ve had to make quite a few of those too), micro-surgery on the Hoover to get bits of Lego out (other plastic toy bricks and cleaning appliances are available), worry, school uniforms, sports days, reams of paper aeroplanes…
I wouldn’t change a moment of it.