Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My youngest son is now four. We held a party for him on Sunday and as far as these things go, it appeared to be a great success. It lasted for two hours, which seems to be the unspoken rule for how long a party for young children should last.

I'm not sure how this consensus emerged. Perhaps it's the maximum amount of time that anyone can bear, or maybe the children start crying and wanting to use the potty after the chime of the second hour. Either way, I'm not complaining.

I was very well behaved. I was under instructions not to offer wine to the adults or play any Gary Glitter tracks, so I helpfully brewed cups of Fairtrade coffee and changed the CBeebies compilation CDs every 45 minutes.

It started off very well. The children and mothers went up to my son's bedroom, while I remained downstairs, reading the Sunday papers. Unfortunately, halfway into a review of The White Ribbon, they all piled into the dining room and I felt obliged to be sociable.

My presence was completely superfluous. I wasn't able to contribute anything to the conversation about the merits of different playgroups and stood leaning against the wall, smiling inanely, making an occasional platitudinous contribution to the discussion.

My wife said that she could see the agony on my face.

It's not as if I'm not the sort of person who is happiest talking sport with the boys. I feel equally comfortable (or uncomfortable) talking to men or women and the three mothers who attended the party were all likeable, interesting, highly accomplished people. But I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I was a spare part.

I shall have to invent a pressing DIY task next year.

Birthdays are bittersweet occasions. On the one hand, I felt elated that the strange little blue creature who almost died four years ago (from having an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck) is now a healthy, happy, bright little boy with a wonderful sense of humour. On the other, I feel sad that it won't be that long before the innocence and endearing malapropisms are replaced with talk of PS3s and Wii games.

At the moment, thanks to a diet of Ladybird books, my son is convinced that it is 1961. He's in for a terrible shock when he goes to school.


Lucille said...

I'm still clinging to the past with this site http://oldladybirdbooks.blogspot.com/.
Happy Birthday to your four year old. It is a lovely age.

Unknown said...

That brought a tear to my eye.

James Russell said...

Ladybirds? How about Picture Puffins? On the subject of which, Eric Ravilious made a dummy for a Picture Puffin called Downland Man, which seems to have vanished along with its creator... Which brings me to my point: my new book!

'Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs' is published by the Mainstone Press on 1 Dec. http://jamesrussellontheweb.blogspot.com

Grey Area said...

keep him in 1961 as long as possible, then move to Hastings...where it's still 1947.

Brett said...

Well, he won't be able to say you weren't there for him, down at the pub, or in an earlier age, off hunting or fighting. What's the saying, that a woman sacrifices her husband at the altar of her child, and her child at the altar of her husband? He'll be out of the nest before you know it.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say that actually most of the children in his class at school (if a little middle class in Lewes) will still be in the 1960's - or as Richard says 1940's here. One of our first meetings with another school child from our road when Ol was four involved him showing us his computer. That he had to draw for himself.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

A beautifully observed post.

Luckily I have never felt any yen for a little pink or (or indeed) blue creature of my own.

Not so much a decision, more a lack of want. Not to mention suitable circumstances to even consider it anyway.

I look at other females with babies and it's like they are holding little aliens. I feel no connection or envy or anything really, other than happy for them if that's what they want. I mean you have to feel happy for people who get what they want - it is such a rare happenstance in life!

Children over the age of about 3 is when they start to become more interesting and interactive. Prior to that I prefer cats.

Steerforth said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Lucille, thanks for the link. All Ladybird material is extremely welcome.

James - Thatt's right up my street. I shall be ordering a copy straight away.

Re: Hastings - there is a weird temporal distortion going on there, rather like Lost.

Brett - I dread the day that the nest is empty.

Laura - I agree. I've never found babies that interesting. The moment young children start to speak and express opinions is when the magic starts.