For some reason, this morning, as I said goodbye to The Boy at the school gates, I was reminded of this old blogpost. And hey, what do you know? I wrote it exactly two years ago today. I can remember writing it, oddly. The strange feeling I had that he was growing up, growing older, and growing away from me.
Which has turned out to be utter rubbish. He’s not. If anything, we’re closer than ever, me and my boy. He’s taller, broader, he has more questions that I don’t have the answers for, but what seems to be unshakable is the bond between us. It’s not that I love him more than I do The Girl, or that he’s my favourite or anything like that. It’s that we seem to share a soul.
I can look at him, and know exactly what he’s thinking. I can tell, from the subtlest gesture that there’s something troubling him. I can see, just from the way he stands, that something funny has just occurred to him, and he’s about to share it with me because he knows I’ll laugh too (and then we’ll have to explain it to Alistair and The Girl, who won’t find it as funny).
Earlier this week, The Girl had an after school club, so The Boy and I decamped to what we both call The Grotty Pub to while away an hour or so. And we were chatting, talking about his day. The following exchange took place:
The Boy: Imogen asked me if I wanted to go out with Claire this lunchtime
Me [wildly excited, starts thinking of buying a Mother of The Groom hat] And what did you SAY????
The Boy: No. Not because of Claire personally, but because I don’t ever want to go out with anyone, ever. I prefer solitude.
Me: Hmm… but it might be nice when you’re older to have someone special to share things with?
The Boy: No, not really. I just don’t like being around people. Apart from you. That’s different. And a few of my friends, because they’re like me. But mostly, I just want to be alone.
I’m still not sure what to make of that. On the one hand, it troubles me that despite being reasonably popular at school, and part of various groups and good at Joining In With Things, he seems to reject the idea of being close to anyone. That spending so much time in his own head can’t be healthy, that he really should be more open to the idea of being around other people, and sharing things with them. And yet… and yet, and yet, and yet… I’m the same. I know I am. I don’t like being around other people too much. Given the choice, I would always choose to be alone, rather than feeling I had to share thoughts and emotions with other people. Too much social interaction and I’m a wreck, totally drained and prone to getting ratty with everyone. And so is he.
The only exception to the rule is when we’re together. We can sit in companionable silence, or we can talk and talk and talk. And laugh, of course. Being around him is never a chore or a strain. We see the world with the same eyes, and it feels effortless, when you’re with someone who understands you so instinctively. We’re both moody, stroppy, and sarcastic at times, but it never grates on me when he’s in one of Those Moods because I know why, and I know the best way to get him out of it is to leave him alone. Something that not many other people understand. And I wonder how differently my life would have been if I'd been as aware of my introvert nature at the same age. The things I would have done differently, how perhaps things wouldn't have seemed so overwhelming if I knew how to handle them better.
I do worry, though. I worry that because I see so much of myself in him that I let him get away with too much. That maybe I’m guilty of giving him what he wants and not what he needs. That perhaps I ought to be tougher on him, that in life he’s not going to always have people around who’ll understand him the way I do, and he needs to find ways of dealing with that. But then I look at him again, my beautiful boy with his blond hair, his silly expressions, his thoughtfulness and gentle nature… and I remind myself that he’s still only ten.
I can’t protect him from life forever. Part of parenting is learning to let go. But while he’s still young, I can be here for him. I can do my best to smooth his path and help him to understand himself better. I worried he was slipping through my fingers. He’s not. He’s still holding my hand.