The Son Thing


2015-01-17 09.05.57_resized“Now. When we get home from school I want you both to make sure you hang up your blazers. Felix, make sure your tie and trousers are on hangers; they are NOT dirty enough for the wash.”

My son rolls he eyes. I can’t see him- he is in the back seat and I am driving home – but I know he’s doing it. “Ok, ok, Mum,” he cuts in, “you don’t have to tell me that. I already know.”

“Oh, but I do have to tell you that. Because you might already know what to do, but day after day I walk into your room and find sad bedraggled trousers in the same hunched pile you left them in when you walked out of them into home clothes.”

He’s not listening. He’s already arguing; my son, the lawyer-to-be, has a retort for every occasion. He will happily argue that black is white. Whilst his logic is still 11 years old (a sharp 11 years old, I’ll give you that) his tone of voice carries absolute assurance. Trust me, it says, I know implicitly what I’m talking about, and indeed what you and everyone else is talking about. And I won’t stop debating this point until Domesday.

This persistence in the line of dispute is what makes so many 11-year-old boys invincible. But not here, and not yet, Mr Felix Shrewsday, I think to myself, turning off the internal volume somewhere inside my head as I glance appraisingly in the car mirror.

Not just yet.

Whilst he has all the garrulousness of an 11-year-old popular with his peers, Felix also has that sense of possibility about him. Already his skills and abilities are enough for a double take on regular occasions.”Maddie!” I hollered up the stairs a few weeks ago, “it is not piano practice time yet – settle to your homework and practice later!”

And the answer came back, floating in merriment down the stairs, accompanies by Felix’s chortling: “That’s not Maddie, Mum, it’s Felix!”

My son, I learn suddenly, plays the piano like he speaks. With assurance and growing skill.

It is not what he can do, so much, as my growing sense of who he is, and will become, which ensures that though I battle him with the ruthlessnessย of Stalin, I am proud.

Meanwhile, at 11, he is still happy to share his fears, and I feel lucky. I dread that soon he will take them on his shoulders and carry them silently, by himself. I realise this is why some mothers heave a sigh of relief when their son finds a soul mate who will listen to him, and help carry them once again.

“Mum, he says, last thing at night, his face screwed up with anxiety, “I’m worried about my science.”

“Why’s that, Love?

“I think I might have missed some homework.”

“Didn’t you write it down in your homework book?”

“No. The bell went and I had to dash off to my piano lesson.”

“Shall I write a note?”

“Ok.” His shoulders relax, and he is ready to sleep.

Later, I find tens of notes scrumpled up in his school rucksack. he doesn’t use them, it seems: they are just talismans against the foreboding. Rarely has Felix missed homework, actually. But he worries about it all the time. Big School is so complex and demanding.

I send up a prayer of thanks that his sister is there, to fend off worry in those moments it threatens to engulf him.

I glance around the room as his eyelids droop.

There, in the corner, is a pair of walked-out-of-school trousers, a perfect sculpture of devil-may-care-boyhood.

I grimace, pick them up, and head to the wardrobe.


30 thoughts on “The Son Thing

  1. My kiddo, in grad school now, still endures my checking in…”Did you apply for XXX internship?” “When is your thesis due?” He endures my questions just like the cat ignores all the chatter I make before opening a can of tuna. What a gift children are at helping us realize that the Universe travels just fine without all of our organization. How lovely that you enjoy the devil-may-care-boyhood.

  2. Sounds just like our Son – now 13 and slowly but inexorably moving into the monosyllabic grunt phase. Has to be chased for everything from correct stashing of clothing and practising of Clarinet but he does seem to be developing a greater level of responsibility with getting his homework done. And he has shouldered the responsibility of doing the washing-up – if not very well ๐Ÿ˜‰ Enjoyed your insight – It’s nice to know we are not alone ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. It’s been a while now, Nancy, since we began chronicling their journeys, hasn’t it? It has been lovely being able to share it. And now I read back and marvel over what I had completely forgotten!

      1. I’d just checked for your first comment on SLTW ~> 11/23/2010. I’m assuming that’s when I first met Felix and Maddie. So he was 7 (+/-) at the time of our first introduction.

        I feel the same when I look at old posts that bring the past back into full focus.

  3. Sounds so much like my son when he was this age, and to a less extent, my grandson. To this day my son will “happily argue that black is white.” (He’s an IT developer, not a lawyer.) He justs seems to enjoy the repartee with anyone who will engage.

  4. As a son, father and now grandparent much of this strikes a resounding chord (apart from the precocity of your Felix which somehow eluded me). Beautifully told, Kate.

  5. Like little fetal heaps, or a massive insect shedding his skin as he walks.. my kids are in their thirties and still doing it..I am visiting my son, putting away shoes, hanging up jackets, folding washing, just so as i can find somewhere to sit.. sigh.. c

  6. Oh beautiful. I’ll admit I hadn’t anticipated my own Felix’s assurance and defiance continuing for quite that long, but guess it will and more. One of my almost four year old Felix’s favourite sayings in the face of some incontrovertible truth is – ‘no it isn’t!’

  7. Oh so beautiful, Kate. It moves me to hear your speak of Felix and to be carried back to the days when these thoughts were close to my own heart. I’m on the eve (less than two weeks) of my son’s marriage and it is a marvel to watch a son transfer the intimacies of sharing the things closest to his heart to the woman he loves. I will forever be proud, and yet miss the days when we shared so closely. And by the way, by the time Jonathan was 11 I KNEW he was going to be an attorney. He didn’t think so, and in fact didn’t make the decision until he had already started college. Mom was right! ๐Ÿ™‚ Hugs to you and your very sweet family. I love hearing about their talents and abilities.

    1. Oh my goodness, two weeks away from your son getting married! What a landmark time. Enjoy the next few weeks, and may your son and his wife to be have many happy years of marriage. The next chapter of the family!

  8. Enjoy every second Kate. My eldest is going to university next year and I’m dreading the Home minus one position. It only gets better and better and I could eat them all with a spoon. LOVE my sons.

    1. I have been following your travels on FB and your family photos show such a happy and contented family. I’ll take your advice, Tammy, and savour the moment ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

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