Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

I know age is just a number, but I can't help being maudlin as my son hits 10

By Kerry McLean

My son was four years old and in P1 when he was asked by his teacher what he would like to be when he grew up. He answered: "A puppy."

A few years later he and his big sister were strapped into the back seat, having a chat on the way to school. His sister asked him if he'd like to go to university when he was big. "Yes," came the reply. She followed up by asking what he was going to study when he got there. His little voice piped up: "Pokemon."

I've a million and one cute little moments like that running through my head this week. You see, my baby boy turned 10 a couple of days ago and for some reason it's left me more than a bit maudlin.

Now I confess, this is nothing new. When it comes to my kids I'm always a bit of an over-emotional wreck. For example, I find it hard to part with anything they've ever made with their hands, hands that used to be like little starfish, all podgy and warm with dimples where their knuckles should be. I have kept birthday cards, school books, random drawings, bits of toilet roll stuck on to boxes and festooned with glitter and feathers, all this and more has been carefully packed and stored into large plastic containers. And this is just the eldest two - the toddler hasn't even got off the starting blocks when it comes to artistic productions. Since my son's birthday this week, I've been poring through those treasures, shedding a tear or two as I've jogged down memory lane.

So why has this birthday knocked me sideways? I think it's something to do with him going from single digits into double figures. I know this doesn't make a lot of sense but the number nine seems so much smaller and younger than 10. It's a hangover, or should that be hang-up, from my own childhood. My mother took great glee this week in telling the kids how badly I handled the transfer into my own second decade. On my 10th birthday, I'm told, she couldn't get me out of bed, even to open my presents. When I was eventually hoisted out, I spent the rest of the day crying and telling anyone who would listen (and I'm guessing the number that fit in that category rapidly diminished as the day progressed) that I didn't want to grow up, I wanted to stay a little girl.

It seems I got my mid-life crises out of the way good and early because since then I've never had a problem with ageing. I was never reluctant to tell people my age (42 if you're wondering) or felt the need to pretend to be younger. I've been very lucky that I've never felt that pressure but I understand those who do. I bumped into a school friend on a recent and very rare night out in Belfast. She had a look of sheer panic on her face when she spotted me making my way to the table she was at, seated with her colleagues from work.

She was up, off her chair and across to where I was standing faster than a speeding bullet to explain that, if it should come up, she was 34. I spent the next 20 minutes in their company, trying desperately to do the mathematics in my head and figure out how we could have been at school together but so many years apart. And why this subterfuge? She explained to me later than no one over 35 gets promoted in her company. A sad but all too common tale of youth being valued over age and experience.

I'm glad to say that my son has taken to being 10 a lot better than his oul' ma did. He's had a ball, with a family celebration and then later today, a party with his friends. He's also having his first sleepover so I'm expecting exactly no sleep whatsoever for them or me tonight but it's lovely to see his excitement. I am so thankful for a decade with this wonderful boy. Here's to the next one!

Belfast Telegraph

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