I looked forward to my children learning to speak because I thought I would at last get an insight into what they were thinking, after a good year or so of frustrating sign language and generalised whinging.
The tragedy of course is that even after waiting all that time, you don’t get any insights, you just get sounds that may or may not be words. And even now, seven years on, I’m not sure the spoken word gives me many windows into my childrens’ souls.
All I get is demands, complaints and Sam calling me a dummy and telling me to shut up quite a lot.
But I can now exclusively reveal that it’s when they learn how to type that you get insights.
Just for a laugh I set Sam up on bluetooth-only messaging app so that I could interrupt his precious, hard-won iPad time with messages like GET OFF YOUR IPAD and WHO DO YOU LOVE MORE MUMMY OR DADDY etc.
Except I hadn’t reckoned for Sam to be unable to work out how to use the App. After a practice session last week in which Sam screamed and hit me because he couldn’t work out how to do it we gave up and I backed out of the room slowly holding a chair, legs-out, in front of me.
But then last night I went upstairs quite late, maybe 9.30pm and found Sam hunched under his bedcovers with his iPad, which I thought I had taken away downstairs hours previously.
“Sam! You naughty boy it’s really late!” I shrieked and seized the screen. On it I found the messaging app open and a long, rambling unsent message to me.
I won’t go into the whole thing but two particular phrases completely floored me. “…I will always be your son…” and “…I will be good mummy…”
Along with a whole load of slushy stuff that confirmed that boys really do love their mums, it was the faint air of a simpleton writing to his mother from prison that did for me.
I am not much of a crier, as I always boast, but only because I worry that if I start crying I might not stop – but oh my god, man, I cried. I wasn’t even drunk. There was no build-up, no wobbling lip – tears sprang from my eyes, uncontrollably, as if a water balloon had been pierced, as if they had been hovering there for years (perhaps they had).
And I felt like the mother who lost all her sons in the war, or the mother who had a missing child, or the child who is very ill, or the child who has done something terrible whom she nevertheless loves, or the child who is being bullied mercilessly or the child that has had its heart broken.
Which was odd because Sam was none of those things. He was just standing there in his pyjamas, looking a bit worried, saying “I’m sorry I was on my iPad. I just wanted to send you a message.”
Thank you for writing this down Esther. I have two boys, 8 and 5, and this has warmed my heart.
Morning Esther, seriously.. what is the app..I need this!!!
it’s called Chat Bluetooth!
Wrong move! Read this on the train and now I’m leaking tears!!
That’s adorable and such a lovely piece. The realisation you are someone’s mother is something that hits you so hard when they’re born, but then it sort of fades into the everyday, only to smack you again at certain moments. My son often says things like “I don’t feel I’ve seen you much today” if we’ve been spending time with other people and it surprises me that he thinks about things like that even if it looks like he’s having a whale of a time, and if I trip or knock into something he is always the first to ask if I’m ok, and he’s started to offer to carry things for me and it kills me. He also turns to me if there’s a sad bit in a film and says “I bet Mum’s going to cry”, and he says it in a jokey way, but always gives me a hug if it turns out to be true – because I cry all the time at books, films, songs, the news, and sometimes even talking about them. We used to laugh at my Mum for being the same, and now it’s ME. (I cried at the Bros documentary) He also made me promise never to play the song from the new Mary Poppins film about losing their Mum in front of him. But it is all hidden in the whining and demanding like coins in the sofa. My daughter, who is just 5, reveals most of her interior world in the songs she makes up that have freaky lines like “without air you will die” and treats me to little weird conversations like the following:
Mum have you finished your book?
Was it good?
Yes it was ok
I like the guinea pigs Mum
Erm, Yes, well I like the guinea pigs too
(Vehemently) I LOVE THE GUINEA PIGS
Yes of course
(wistfully) I love you Mum
So I’m not sure I want to delve further in case she’s planning to bump me off and rule alone with the guinea pigs.
I feel that Kitty mostly spends her time plotting my downfall
She makes me little drawings all the time, which I took for granted she like s doing, then one day she said “you never make me drawings Mum. I make drawings for everyone but no one draws anything for me!” So now I have to do that. I mean I’m sure I don’t have to. But it feels like I do.
Louise Rowntree says
Wow, that’s so interesting, I am the mother of two lovely boys, now in their twenties, we are close and they are adorable but I still never really know how they feel about me, I would love to have a window into their inner thoughts.
Oh my goodness, his little heart! What a lovely thing.
What a gorgeous boy you have x
So sweet. My daughter writes me letters in bed sometimes, breaks my heart.
Oh I just love this! Sweet little boy. How can kids be so maddening yet so heartbreakingly delicious at one and the same time? God love him 😭💔💔
Ahhhhhh can understand this and how you felt….Mine are now young adults and they occasionally break my heart still!
how lovely you are –
Lesley Somerville says
My son is 22 and we chat on messenger a few times a week. He doesn’t say much of any great import but he does tell me regularly how proud he is of me for going to the gym and keeping fit (I’m 63) and says I’m a ‘beast’ which is the most meaningful compliment you can get from a young man who goes to the gym himself. His nickname for me amongst his friends when he was a teenager was Big Lez (I’m not that big btw). That’s the name I have inscribed on my personalised Chilly bottle. Awwwwww
that is so cute. 22 is basically a baby
This is wonderful.
Riffing on a theme here, but when my daughter (7) and I fall out about something, and I’ve told her off and she’s gone off in a huff, we have started communicating in notes. Paper notes I mean. She’ll write something like “It’s not fair you told me off but XYZ was doing it too” with a sad face or angry drawing. She’ll sidle in, drop it near me and then dash out. I then write back something like “I can see you’re cross I told you off. However, I did explain ABC…” then I sidle in, drop it near her and wander out. This will replay half a dozen times til she feels her point has been made and she is ready to be reconciled. It’s actually really helpful when emotions are high and I can’t explain to her because she can’t actually hear me properly.
This is a lovely post but Im feeling sad because my 3 teenagers don’t’ say anything lovely to me ever anymore unless they want some cash/festival tickets/trainers but even then it does’nt last long 😢
Sam is mostly utterly vile to me – his most recent favourite thing to do is to wait until I am bending over and then poke me as hard as he can *right* up the bum. He also only wants money/snacks. I sort of can’t wait until he is a teen and just ignores me. If he is still poking me up the bum when he is 15 it will be really bad
Sorry, but this REALLY MADE ME LAUGH Esther. Just Sam’s current trick, not the utterly vile thing. No disrespect to anyone having a tough time with their kids. x
It’s just so awful and humiliating and infuriating. Also funny of course. If you’re not me x
Brenda Tobia says
Such a boy thing. They love nothing more than poo jokes etc. I’m sorry but this made me laugh (loudly) as well.
Lesley Somerville says
Sarah, it will come but probably not in the teenage years, when they are completely self-absorbed. Early 20s should show signs of being an actual human being capable of empathy.
thanks Lesley X
I even tried getting a puppy to cheer the said teenagers up and I didn’t like dogs at all. They love the puppy (now small dog) but still hate me – luckily the dog loves me the most and I love her to ridiculous, slightly unhinged levels. I can highly recommend (small) dog ownership to all parents of teenagers! I am hanging in there with the teenagers and hoping they come back more civilised from University 🙏🏻
I communicate with my thirteen year old son via emojis and gifs on our phones. I figured if you can’t beat them join them and it makes us both laugh if I send a particularly stupid GIF to him during school. We also have a photo of a really hugely fat cat we found on the internet that we send each other. We also bond over ‘SAS: are you Tough enough’ (or whatever its called) on the telly on a Sunday night when his sisters have been sent to bed. That and ‘Hunted’ which we are fanatical about and spend the whole time working out what we would do to win. Its all bonding, one way or another and keeps us close.
That all sounds pretty great
It often strikes me as utterly HILARIOUS that I am a *mother*. Me? What, me? But I feel like I’m barely out of my teens and don’t know how to use internet banking! Me? Really? And it seems like a bad joke. But then sometimes you get a glimpse of how central you are (in fact, you ARE a mum) and it is amazing. This morning my son said to me: “I love you to the sky and back down under the ground”. Me too, boyo. Me too.
I had no idea how much my two sons cared about me until I made the decision to leave their father after 35 years, their fierce loyalty and support has absolutely floored me and made my cry frequently…as teenagers they were awful.
I recently got into bed and found a post it note from my 6 year old son just saying ‘I Love You Mummy’ – sobbed like a baby!!!
“…it was the faint air of a simpleton writing to his mother from prison that did for me.” This is one of the funniest lines I have ever read. As someone who is expecting my first (a boy!) in late April/early May (eff off Meghan Markle), this piece just spoke to me. Thank you, Esther.
Oh my god. Best Spike piece ever?
Oh how I cried. This is just lovely.
Esther this is so lovely ! no idea how i missed this until now but it was such a nice read, thank you! xx