What a week; “non-essential” services – indoor service at restaurants, cinemas, arcades, etc – have reopened, and the weather has decided to do a passable impression of winter. I do actually wonder if I am British sometimes, because I hate talking about the weather, but even I have been dragged into a daily observation of the skies.
Bryan and I walk to school pretty much every morning; we sometimes cycle, or Bryan might feel particularly adventurous and use his wobble scooter, but walking is usually it. I don’t drive, but even if I did, I suspect we would still walk; I like watching the world go by, seeing the blossom on the trees, and just chatting; it’s calm, and it’s exercise. When Bryan first came home, he didn’t really agree; he would have happily got into the car for a drive to the corner shop.
But walking gave us a chance to have one of our Big Chats this week, which we occasionally do either to or from school; a chat about something significant and particularly important. His school did a lesson on puberty this week, so I knew it would raise a lot questions – which I supported – and I also wanted to make sure Bryan was confident going into the class.
Now it should be said that this wasn’t the first time Bryan and I talked about the subject; Bryan’s 10, so his body sadly won’t let him stay like this forever. I have tried to ban him from growing up but, so far, he seems to be disobeying me. He is naturally curious, and I would rather him get all the facts – in a safe, age-appropriate way – from me and school, so when the inevitable happens and he and his mates start talking about all this stuff between them, he at least has a fighting chance of separating the truth from the old wives’ tales.
I’m fortunate; Bryan is a pretty sensible lad, so our discussion wasn’t pulled down by any embarrassment, and it was nice to help him understand what the near-future holds. When I went to school – Holy Cross in Broadstairs, now demolished – we had a single lesson on the topic by our clearly-embarrassed science teacher, and it had never been discussed in primary school at all. Things have changed now, and it’s much more sensible and bite-sized; all very positive.
The conversation stuck with Bryan, which I’m glad about, and he was clearly thinking about age as well. He approached me the other day and said, “Daddy, you’re middle-aged, aren’t you?” I hesitated, as I had to think whether 39 was in fact considered middle-aged – but then I realised that it had to be. In another 39 years, I’ll be in my late seventies, and I certainly couldn’t consider myself in the first flush of youth then.
“Yes,” I replied, “I suppose I am.” He seemed satisfied with that, but the following morning, as we were waiting at the school gates, I heard him say to one of his friends, “I asked my dad, and yeah, he’s middle-aged. He’s older than your dad!”
There are moments when you need to actively deal with a situation, and there are other moments – this is something I have learnt as a parent – when you just shut up and don’t say anything. This was one of those moments.
By the time this week’s column is out on Sunday evening, Bryan and I will have treated ourselves to a day out. We’re booked to have lunch inside a restaurant, and Bryan is so excited that he wants to dress up in a suit for the occasion; far be it for me to argue with the lad. I just get to spend the day with my son, so there’s not much else I can ask for, really.