This is an ode to the boy who made me a mum. My Alex.
Truth be told as Nessa would say, Alex was a buggar as a newborn. First off, the doc decided I was heading for pre-eclampsia so they decided to induce me a week early. All the excitement of becoming a mum and suddenly, I wanted to get off this ride. Nope, not ready! Stop the bus!! I’d actually thought my moon face was just the result of all the treats I’d kindly been sharing with Alex in utero. A fat girl aint going to refuse eating for two, is she? But apparently, it was the first signs of an issue so they decided our parenthood journey was going to start a week earlier than we’d planned. However, despite my polite requests whispered to my bulging belly and a couple of hours later, my blatant angry demands, he refused to come out. He gave the docs and his Dad quite a scare. I barely knew up from down by the time he did make his reluctant entrance and we stayed as guests of the HDU for a couple of nights. Four days later, he nearly ended up back in hospital after we brought him home because apparently he…he?…Alex?…yes…he had had a traumatic birth experience. Rich still pales if the word “forceps” is ever uttered in his presence. Luckily we had a fantastic midwife who caught the issue and scared us silly with her warnings but we heeded her strict advice and therefore, we avoided a return trip. Then the monkey wouldn’t feed properly. So this meant he wouldn’t sleep properly. And he screamed pretty much solidly for for the first six weeks. But then he stopped crying. He started smiling. And so began the steps to having the most chilled out and friendly baby I ever knew.
Seriously, this boy was a dream child. I was the annoying mother at the baby group who slept through and whose baby smiled and cooed at everyone. People adored him. He always made them feel good as his smile lit up the room. Everyone wanted to hold him. He made me feel like the greatest mother in the world. We had our routine and it all seemed quite easy to be honest. Little did I realise, it wasn’t me that was a good mother but he was a good baby…a couple of years later I would come to understand this abruptly when my second born decided to show me what a crazy thrill ride parenthood could actually be and how I didn’t actually have a clue! As Alex grew up, Nanny would regale me with tales of their trips to Allestree where he’d charm all the old ladies from his pushchair in the charity shops. Three years later she would regale me with tales of the same ladies’ shock when his feral brother would instead growl and hiss at them when they tried the same small talk with young Joshie. Kids eh? Chalk and cheese but both stories make me smile now.
Parent’s evenings were always a joy. “Charming, polite, friendly, super smart” frequent adjectives I learned to bask in. There’s no denying he’s smart. Super smart even. His general knowledge is astonishing. I remember when he was four and learning to read: he got stuck on a word so I encouraged him to read it again. “Oh yeah, Mummy…it’s a split vowel diagraph so it’s…” It’s a what??I don’t remember what the word was. I only know I had to google what a split vowel diagraph was. I had absolutely no idea what he was on about. It would not be the last time I reached for google to fact check his statements. He is annoyingly still always right! Now he’s about to start homeschool, I’m not worried because in all honesty, he exceeded the level of help I can give him a couple of years ago. I offer a sounding board educational service now where he asks me, I answer and he realizes I’m wrong.
Now I’m trying to phrase this next bit carefully. Forgive me if I get it wrong. Because Josh is autistic and when he was younger we didn’t know this, there were some trying times. But the love Alex had for his brother was, is wonderful to witness. Oftentimes, because Joshie was late to start talking (although he’s certainly made up for it since) and his speech didn’t develop typically, we had no idea what Josh was upset about but Alex just seemed to instinctively know. He was the one who was able to decipher the code words Josh used, Shownie for heart, Sema for Alex among others.
I remember once, coming out of Nanny’s house with the boys and the neighbour suddenly started up his chainsaw to cut back his hedge. Joshie immediately started screaming and without warning, our normally cool, calm Alex at five years old ran directly across the street and shouted at this poor fella for upsetting his little brother. I remember having to have a little word with him about running into the street but once my heart rate resumed to normal, I was actually beaming with pride at his instincts to protect his little brother. Still now there are often days when Joshie needs extra support and his brother is always good to supply that. In fact, Alex is sometimes who we turn to to find out what’s wrong. And if Josh has a nightmare, it’ll be Alex’s door he knocks on in the night. Don’t get me wrong, these days they enjoy a typical fraternal relationship where grassing and winding each other up are a central feature of their day. They revel in making mischief for each other. The banter can be quite exhausting and I often consider daytime drinking but it is wonderful to see how close they really are even if they refuse to admit it.
“Brothers are like streetlights along the road…they don’t make the distance any shorter but they light up the path and make the walk worthwhile” Shivangi Verma
So now I turn to recent days. Every time you think you’ve got your grip on a developmental stage, the little monsters mix it up and head into the next one. Now he’s a teenager, I think this is the scariest stage so far. If we get it wrong: let go too soon or too late, who knows what could happen. It’s also been quite stressful parenting him during the time of quarantine. I’m sure parenting teenagers is problematic at the best of times but throw in a pandemic and it’s just an extra layer of parental anxiety. Not that he’s done anything wrong or caused any problems. It’s just now we’re in the teenage years, I’m not sure what I’m doing again. We had just started giving him his freedom and letting him go out with friends when Covid hit. Now he’s stuck indoors. He seems to have a nice circle of friends and they’ve kept in touch online. But when he’s a bit grumpy, is it because of quarantine or just the usual teenage stuff? Does he need counselling or space? More often than not, it’s just carbs he needs! I’ve discovered the best way to keep the communication flowing is to make sure the cupboards stocked but may be move the desired packet to a different shelf. Then by listening out for the sound of his bedroom door knob turning, I can be ready for the inevitable “MUUMMM! We haven’t got any….(insert relevant snack here)!” And I have been known to turn his wifi off before which also got him out of his room in record time. So hashtag Mom hacks!!
But all in all, he’s a great kid. He was definitely a good introduction to parenting. He’s 14 now and the only scar he has is from a bloody marshmallow so we’re quite proud of ourselves. He’s got his own mind too which has been a learning curve. Surprising he doesn’t hang off our every word and bow to our imagined superiority! He needs rationale to believe us now!! The cheek!! And he has definitely mastered the art of the eyeroll. But I love that mop of tousled curly hair. His Dad is always threatening to cut it off but in all seriousness, have you seen my husband’s head…I say keep it long while you can because your genes aren’t looking too good in the future hair department son!
I love spending time with Alex tho. These days it’s more a mutual enjoyment of activities we share. If he’s bored, he wanders off and finds something else to occupy his time so when we are doing something together, I know to treasure it. He’s developed a fantastic sense of humor-so dry and dead pan. It’s really kind of exciting to imagine where he’s going-(apart from up! He’s grown 3 inches since April and apparently, he has a few more years of this growing malarky if we keep feeding him).
I genuinely can’t wait to see what the future brings for this Sweet Child O’ Mine.