Walking home from school yesterday, I watched my two sons skipping ahead, earnestly discussing a computer game called Minecraft whilst jumping onto low garden walls and racing each other to the next lamp post. They could have been friends in the same class - one slightly taller than the other. When I tell people that the age gap between them is six years, they are always shocked.
My oldest son
increasingly reminds me of Oskar Mazerath in The Tin Drum - a boy who
consciously decides to stop growing as a rejection of the adult world
that awaits him. I've no idea why my son isn't growing, but I can only
hope that when puberty eventually arrives, it will empower him.
today is my younger son's seventh birthday. I've been thinking about
the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you
the man" and wondering how true it is. My life up until the age of 14
seems like a nebulous, badly-written play in which I had a largely
non-speaking part. However, the moment my voice broke, I felt as if I
had become a clearly-defined person.
I've no idea why a
surge in testosterone should result in a new passion for Beethoven,
Radio 4 and Ingmar Bergman films, but almost overnight, things that had
once baffled and bored me were now utterly fascinating. I became
interested in current affairs, bombarding the London embassies of
various nations with requests for information about their countries. I
also started avidly watching Newsnight.
then, my tastes have changed remarkably little. There are some things
that I can no longer stomach - Mahler symphonies, Radio 4 comedies and
Constable - but I still enjoy many of the things that appealed to me 30
years ago. It's odd how a one-year growth spurt can seal a person's
I hope that my older son's testicles are
limbering up for a similar transformation. Some people look back on
their childhood with fondness, but for me, life began at 14.