My eldest son starts his first job tonight, as a lounge boy in the pub I drink in. He went off this morning with his CV (an exercise in padding that would make the Michelin Man look thin), spoke to the owner by himself and was accepted.
He’s sixteen. Where the hell did it go. I remember so clearly the night he was born. He wasn’t due for another eight days.I had just finished working on a panto I was writing for the drama group I was part of at the time. It was about half-past ten, so I decided I would go for one drink to help me sleep. As I was saying this to my wife I looked at her and thought “she’s twice the size she was this morning”, so when I drove to the end of my road, instead of turning right to the pub I went left to the garage and filled the car with petrol. At 2am, when she suddenly leapt out of bed, I was still wide awake. I remember the drive in, and how I broke the speed limit deliberately in the hope I would be stopped by the Guards so I could say “sorry, but my wife’s having a baby.” I remember how the two of us kept giggling as we were walking up and down the corridors, scared and thrilled at what was about to happen. I remember it becoming daylight outside as Mrs Tin fought with the contractions in the ward, refusing an epidural, as indeed she would with the next two as well. Most of all though I still remember the shock when his face appeared. We’ve been told that we look alike, but that first look at what was essentially me looking at me was something I’ll never forget. There was never going to be any problem feeling a bond with him after that.
The three-and-a-half years that he was an only child were just brilliant. He was an exceptionally happy baby, waking up singing every morning in his cot and then bursting into a big beam when I’d peer in at him. I remember his first few words, and the morning he started calling “Mamadada” from his cot, which I count as his first sentence, since by using the two words instead of one he was clearly saying “I don’t care which of you comes & gets me, but one of you shift your arse.” He could talk before he was one, but couldn’t walk till he was nearly two – again, just like his dad. I remember freezing Saturday mornings walking him in his pram around Delgany and Greystones, stopping at now extinct farms to look at the horses and the hens. He loved buses and trains, and it made the day if he saw either on our journey. He had a toy bin lorry, and on Thursdays he would stand in the front garden with his little lorry and wave at the binmen as they came by.
At around Christmas we told him there would be a baby coming in April. He spent the next few months asking was it April. This became awkward when it was April, and we had to tell him it wasn’t, since his brother didn’t arrive till the 23rd. That morning, at 5am (do babies have no idea of time?) I went in to call him. “You have to get up, Mum’s going to the hospital to have the baby,” I said. “Is it April?” he asked sleepily. “Yes, son, it’s April,” I answered. He swung his little legs straight out of the bed and stood up, and I almost burst into tears. I felt so terribly guilty for the fact that we were about to change his life forever, that he would never again be the sole focus of our lives. I felt we were betraying him.
Of course, it wasn’t like that, he got on great with his brother, though the fact that he got a surprise (for all of us) sister just 18 months later meant that he effectively became an only child again, just with two annoying smaller people in the house.
Since then there’ve been many, many more memories – his first day at school (he was so shy), his football career (again, like his dad, he loves all sport and is rubbish at most of them), the time he won a musical statues game in Ibiza at the age of about nine, his first trip to the Gaeltacht. I remember one day he was walking through the living room and I was walking the other way. I picked him up, walked about four steps, and put him down again. “Now you know what time travel is like,” I told him.
Later came his first discos (I used to bring himself and his two mates in the car and the smell of three different brands of Lynx would make my eyes water). They’d end at 11.30 and sometimes he’d be out the door at 11.30 and seven seconds. “Didn’t score, huh, son?” I’d say. “Shut up, dad, ” he’d wittily reply. I’ve always been able to slag him, and he takes it really well.
He’s done well at school, though they say he could try harder. He astonished me, and proved that he’s not just my clone, by coming first in science every year to Junior cert, and now in physics this year. “Science?” I said the first year, ” you couldn’t have, I was crap at science.”
He has a lovely girlfriend, pretty, open and bright, and I’m proud to see that a girl like her would like him.
When I said earlier that he would no longer be the focus of our lives, I wasn’t of course talking about Mrs T, who is the ultimate helicopter mum (hovering about him). A couple of weeks ago he brought his girlfriend out for dinner in Greystones, about a 15 minute walk away. Later the phone rang, and my daughter and I heard Mrs T’s half of the conversation, which went “no, I won’t collect you, ” and “don’t be ridiculous, it’s only a short walk.” She hung up and scornfully said “he wanted me to collect them & drive them up here coz they’re both stuffed after their dinner” she said. “Did you ever hear anything so stupid.” While she was ranting I noticed she was putting on shoes. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Er, well, I’m going to collect them, ” said Mrs T. My daughter & I just fell around.
And tonight he’s starting work. It’s the next big step along the road, and I hope it goes really well. He’s a great guy, earnest, honest, determined, funny. Sometimes he’s an idiot. But we are so very, very proud of him.