Tinson2 is thirteen. While any parent will love and defend their children to the ends of the earth, most of us know what they are really like deep down. And my son is the sweetest person on this planet.
He was the grumpiest, angriest baby of the three of them. It used to bother me that he didn’t smile when you appeared in front of his cot the way the eldest had, but simply held his hands up, demanding to picked up so he could get on with his busy day of crying, turning his face away from food and sticking out his lower lip. Like his elder brother he made no effort to walk, but would rocket along the floor (we have wooden floors) on his butt. Indeed, he was even better than his brother at it, as he would use one hand as a paddle and sort of flip himself along, with his bum practically coming off the floor as he galumphed along. He did try to walk one day. He got up, toddled one or two steps, then obviously thought to himself “sod this for a game of pokemon, I can move twice as fast on my arse” and went back to the backside shuffle. It was only when we were teaching his younger sister to walk, getting her to stumble along between two of us kneeling about five feet apart, that he got up and joined in, walking beside her & encouraging her.
Because by then the miracle had already occurred. He had become his sister’s great mate. To say we were terrified of what his reaction to the new baby would be was putting it mildly. He was just 18 months old, surly, often angry, and all the worst horror stories of children trying to hurt younger siblings were in our heads as my wife sat at home with our new arrival while I collected him from my sister-in-law’s. I got home and carried him into the sitting room where the moses basket (God, I couldn’t remember there what the thing was called, how quickly you forget) held centre stage. “This is your new baby sister Susan” we said. He knelt beside the basket and put his hand gently on the blanket. “Soo-soo”, he said, with a big smile on his face. I still have the photos (oh, I wish I knew enough about all this stuff to be able to publish them) of the whole thing – him in his big outdoor one piece coat-thingy, hair all sweaty because of the heat in the room, with a huge grin on his face.
And from that second on they were like twins – absolutely inseparable. I’ve already spoken about how Tinson1 became an only child again, and it’s as good as true.
Tinson2 did have middle child syndrome, though, which I realised even before I knew such a thing was a recognised problem. Older child knew more than he did, so there was no point trying to compete on knowledge, and younger child was more cute, so there was no point trying to be babyish. He developed into a child almost desperate to do eveything right, having seemingly decided that if he couldn’t be the clever child or the adorable child, he could at least be the good child. Every time he did anything wrong, like spill a drink, he would dissolve into floods of tears and say “I’m sorry” over and over again. I sure people who saw us when we were out must have thought that we beat him regularly for mistakes at home.
So this little bundle of fears and worries, who spent all his time with a far younger playmate, headed off to school. As if things weren’t bad enough for him, his April birthday meant that it was borderline as to which year he would start, and by starting him in the earlier of the two possible years he was one of the youngest in the class, continuously going to friends’ sixth birthday parties before he himself had his fifth. Occasionally he would get teased about how babyish he was, and how quick to get upset, and would arrive home in tears.
The great thing, though, is that he did have friends. His time spent with his younger sister had by now given him a kind, caring nature that couldn’t help but shine through. (I still remember how we met a barking dog on the street in Kusadasi, and how he immediately stood in front of his sister.) He was warm, helpful, considerate and, by now, very funny, and quickly established a group of close little friends. He still worried a lot about what people thought of him, and still hated to look babyish, but this grew out of him in time. One evening at the age of about ten he announced that he had to get a photograph of himself for some poster they were putting up at school. He went through a load of old pictures and eventually found one of him at the age of about two, with a baseball hat backwards on his head, and those thick baby socks on his feet. “I’ll have this one,” he said.
He finished national school and has just completed his first year in secondary. Again, he seemed so much younger and smaller than all the others on the first day. None of his friends from the BSP were going to the same school, yet in no time at all he was part of a new little group of closely knit friends. They all went to their first disco last month, so again the house stinks of Lynx (his elder brother has graduated to Lacoste), but it was more a rite of passage thing I think than any serious attempt at getting off with women (I may be the most naive parent on the planet for all I know). He had astounded us all, a family for whom changing a light-bulb counts as DIY, by taking wood-work and metalwork, and our house now contains a key-hook, a letter-rack, a tortoise, a toothbrush holder, a wooden ship, a minature sliothar and a metal shovel that he has made over the course of the year. He bought a second-hand Scalextric set at a school fair and wired it up himself. He dug out an old Nintendo 64 that his brother used to have and worked out how to fix it. I sometimes thinks he was accidently switched at birth.
And now the Gaeltacht. Interestingly, he didn’t want to go to the one his brother has gone to for the last three years, but once his brother said he wasn’t going (he has a girlfriend now) he was quite happy to go there. Again, he seemed too young, sitting all on his own on the coach with his head barely visible at the window, but apparently the older ones were discussing whether the eldest son would be coming. “Are you talking about Tinson 1?” he piped up, “because I’m his brother.”
He seems to have no fears anymore. He is sweet, kind, thoughtful and almost always good-tempered. He has a very dry, and very funny, sense of humour.
He’s just great.