‘Well, J. says I’m the prettiest girl in the village,’ declared my childhood best friend.
‘No, I am,’ I fought back defiantly.
‘You !? No. I am,’ she shot back – with such total and utter conviction I was completely convinced she had to be right. And then with the lightning speed of any revelation, I realised that not only was I not the prettiest girl in the village, I was not pretty at all.
Later on I was bullied at secondary school. But you can get over that. Intellectually an intelligent person can recognise and deal with an insecure bitch by the time they reach 12 years old. It doesn’t make the bully any less scary but it can shift the ‘blame’ away from you. Being bullied at primary school, however, never goes away.
What you are taught about yourself at primary school shapes your entire lifelong image of yourself. It is this image which you will spend the rest of your life either trying to maintain or change.
That single conversation shaped my self-image so powerfully that in an instance I realised, and accepted without any resistance whatsoever, I would never get married, and, ergo I would never have children. My quality of life would simply have to depend upon another completely different way of life: and I would have to set about competing with other women on a different level – I was not a pretty face but I could be interesting. This would ensure at least boyfriends, but I accepted, I would never get married.
So when I did get married, the walk up the aisle was rather like an outer body experience. Even more shocking was finding out later that year I was ‘having a baby’. And that baby is 21 years old tomorrow.
GM is the best toy I ever had. Unlike my dolls, who I lost interest in far too quickly in my mother’s opinion, he moved and squawked and grew. And he came with loads and loads of accessories: prams, baths, cuddly toys, cute little outfits that needed to be replaced by slightly bigger and even cuter little outfits every couple of months – and proper baby bottles that actually had to be refilled.
He had a whole room to himself which was decorated with Mothercare ABC – a white background with random soft pastel coloured objects that made the room feel like a little bit of cloudy Heaven. And it had wooden toy ornaments and bright red stuff that made banging and squeaky noises! It also had the most awesome cot ever.
My brother had a carpenter friend hand-make a giant wooden cot that was so huge it had to be dismantled and rebuilt to get it up the stairs. It was designed to be converted to a small single bed when he got old enough to remove the railings. At the time I thought this was a bit of a waste: I actually didn’t expect to keep ‘it’ alive that long – I’d given myself two weeks in the hospital before I broke ‘him’.
As it turns out, he was much better than dolls in other ways too. For one thing, he didn’t break. He kept on getting bigger and began doing really fascinating stuff – like eating baby rice off spoons. This amused me beyond description. He was such fun! Within a few short weeks, I discovered you could also ‘put him on snooze’ by playing Mozart’s Greatest Hits and still hoover around him.
Around 10 – 11 months there were a few tricky moments. Packing him up with all his stuff, with a miniature Yorkshire terrier wanting to tear around the estate as I collected my marking and books for school, was beginning to lose its novelty. I decided I needed him to walk to the car by himself. After a few misguided and futile attempts to interest in him ‘walking’ we decided to leave him alone and allow him to sort himself out. I did pray a lot over the Christmas school holidays and checked the baby books for reassurance: they said ‘around 12 months’ was ‘normal’. And fair play, the day before school re-opened on January 6, he suddenly pulled himself up and started walking around the sitting room. WIthout so much as a wobble, a dither or slip. And the next day with his massive green ‘warm’ coat on he stepped down from the front door and walked straight towards the car all by himself.
And ‘the text book baby’ continued to hit every single baby-book development stage to the letter. He never mis-pronounced a word, he never mis-used a word. Including one of his earliest phrases, ‘Fucking Hell’. Which he delivered with perfect intonation over Christmas dinner in front of my brother and his latest and, hitherto, poshest girlfriend. Almost as embarrassing was having to explain the circumstances in which his mother had taught him this expression: getting trapped in what she thought was a traffic light queue outside Dudley bingo hall, and which actually turned out to be a row of parked cars belonging to the said bingo hall clientele.
It soon became pretty obvious that he was bright. One of the first things we learned about him was he never ‘practised’ anything in public: like his walking and talking, he practised all his skills whilst playing on his own in the sitting room, surrounded by a large circle of toys with which I attempted to ‘trap’ him in whilst I cooked or did other jobs in the kitchen. We realised he had taught himself some method of counting his plastic bricks and toys because it was evident he always knew how many he should have. More disturbingly though it was also soon evident that he was learning about us.
One of the first things he learned was that Mummy liked books. Mummy especially liked him liking books. Asking for books to be read could get you out of anything and could buy several hours of getting out of having to go to bed. Mummy would read books long after she was prepared to build bricks, line up animals or watch videos. And well into his teens Mummy was very happy for a bedroom light to be burning a hole in the electricity bill – as long as it involved a book.
All the other mothers – and the media – hated the Power Rangers. ‘Power Rangers’ was immediately after ‘Prince Valiant’. The themes to both these programmes had awesome rock themes and took the edge off getting up at 6.30 on Saturday mornings. I loved ‘Power Rangers’. It wasn’t about fighting or even good versus evil. It was about self-confidence, loyalty and doing the right thing. I liked these qualities and wanted my child to develop them. The house was soon swimming in Power Rangers: figures, monsters, swords and things that morphed you. Seeing the White Ranger dance down the aisle at the NEC made me burst into tears. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. GM seemed quite happy too.
And then ‘Power Rangers’ were no more. After four or five series there was no more getting up at half six. I missed the Power Rangers but enjoyed the lie-in. Until it started to get closer to Christmas and the horror of what the end of the Power Rangers actually meant began to really sink in: what the fuck was Santa going to bring this year?
JK Rowling is a multi-millionaire. And she deserves every penny. Harry Potter was ‘born’ just in time to save Christmas. Harry Potter could do things not even Power Rangers could do: he played quidditch, he wore a great black wizard gown and had a wand that zapped things. Harry Potter was a child too, he wasn’t a teenager who saved the world from imagery monsters: he went to school, had teachers, lessons and homework: and he outsmarted ‘real’ adults. More importantly Harry Potter had loads of stuff in Toys’R’Us – and that was good enough for me. Christmas was sorted.
The other thing that GM learned pretty quickly was that Mummy liked him drawing and painting. This was another way of getting out of trouble and staying up late. And this was particularly good – even better than the book thing – because this was really, really easy. You just looked at stuff and then replicated them exactly on paper. Mummy delighted in this and made loads of gooey, joyous noises. Even when she had just finished decorating the sitting room in nice new pink wall-paper and a giant two foot monster was drawn on it all she said was, ‘Oh my God ! Look at this! He’s got exactly the right number of circles in the eyes – and the body proportions are perfect!’
It was only a passing thought at the time but as a result of that drawing I remember saying to my husband something about him ending up studying music, art and literature for his A levels – and that is exactly what he did. And it has been a constant source of joy and pride that our home has since always been filled with paints and pencils, guitars and drum kits, and books and more books. Our walls have only original art on them and there has hardly been a day without very loud music pounding through the air. Mealtimes have been filled with lively, even violent, debates, and Bronte and Bon Jovi have both been paid equal homage to in pilgrimages to Haworth and Manchester’s biggest music stadia.
My son is absolutely gorgeous. He is kind, generous, honest, loyal and loving. He is talented and hard-working. He is creative and practical. He writes beautiful music for his girlfriends and paints amazing pictures for his mum. He is protective of his sister and never lets his friends down. He is both extraordinarily camp and very much a lad’s lad at the same time.
Above all he has always been his own person and everything I could ever have wanted him to be. He is the ultimate Power Ranger fighting for justice and the ultimate Harry Potter bringing magic into my life.
He is, in short, the best Christmas present I ever had.…
This entry was first posted on January 4 2013