Belfast Telegraph

I'll miss being woken up in the night by my little boy

By Jane Graham

Everyone knows that the first day of school is a landmark moment in a child's life. Or, more to the point, in a parent's life. Because while our children breeze through these totemic stations with about as much stop to wonder why as a lamb skipping past a jumper shop, it's us, ashen faced and gulp-suppressing, who take the real hit.

It's our ever quickening lives which start to blur, those days measured out in banana milk cups roughly tossed back at us. Those days they won't remember, no matter how many photographs we show them, how often we return to the old haunts.

While it hurt, I was prepared for the blow of the first day of school because it has, among mothers, a mythical status. What no one had ever mentioned to me was the day they move into separate bedrooms. I hadn't given it much thought, though I do remember my own relocation, when I was about 10, as an event of singular excitement and triumph.

Even though I was traversing the two foot of corridor into a space a quarter of the size of my old room, where I would struggle to sit at a desk without being poked in the back by the makeshift shelf over my sawn-off bed, I felt like Braveheart that day, embracing my freedom. Braveheart the day he was allowed to put up more than one James Dean poster.

Being the mum of two children of different genders, I always knew the period in which they could harmoniously share a nest wouldn't last too long. A 10-year-old girl may love her brother and enjoy hugging him about the neck until unconscious, but at the first sign of puberty, he quickly becomes an obstacle and source of regular frustration.

A younger brother, even one who has been blessedly relaxed about interior design (it never struck him that his light shade was covered in woodland fairies and a garland of flowers crowned his wardrobe) may be briefly stung by his sibling's sudden keenness to abandon him, but the promise of an alien-themed new hang-out, tends to fend off that momentary wound.

I enjoyed the process of creating two new rooms, individual representations of two quite different personalities rather than a confused compromise between them. One child wanted a pretty haven prioritising comfort, security and trinkets to inspire her music and writing. The other was mostly concerned with making a private den under his high level bed, a boy cave underneath which he and his Lego would be undetectable to the human eye (though not to Superman, with his X-ray vision).

What hadn't occurred to me that with the single room would come, within two days, a new streak of independence. The little boy who once told me his favourite age was three because that's the last age at which you believe you can choose to stop growing up, is so taken with his new canopy bed he's finally, after three years of us begging him, stopped creeping into our bed in the middle of the night.

My husband thinks it's great, a real progression. Yes, it's definitely, from any sane point of view, a good thing. Who could argue with a gift of unbroken slumber? And in time I suppose I won't miss half-waking in the early hours of sunrise and seeing that soft-skinned freckled face, angel eyes closed, puckered mouth slightly open, one arm firmly around a soft hippo, inches from mine. I just wish he'd told me, last Thursday night, that it would be the last time.

Belfast Telegraph

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