Dear reader the day has come. For the last eight years I have regaled you with stories about my beloved son and his quirky ways. How I remember first sharing news of my pregnancy with the readers of this column and for the last eight years and two months I have shared almost every other detail of our growing relationship as mother and son.
I shared the (grim) details of his birth, the joy of his first smiles. I shared the mixture of emotions I felt buying his first shoes, the pride and pain of leaving him at the school gates for the first time. I shared his funny sayings, his terrible twos (and his fours, forever known in our house as the ‘fecking fours’ only with the bad F word). I shared his obsessions - Fifi and the Flowertots, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine and more recently Derry City and Liverpool FC.
I have spoken about the joy of watching him become a brilliant big brother who, thankfully, has only come close to killing his sister once. I have delighted in being a “spoofy mammy” one who shares those details with you whether or not you are interested because I just love him so very much. (Even when he drives me up the walls, which is a lot, as he is eight and eight year- old boys are particularly skilled at driving their mammies to distraction).
But last week we had a very serious conversation. “Mammy,” he said, “Can you not write about me in the paper any more? I get embarrassed.”
Of course, he is eight so he gets embarrassed about everything. He will go into a mini pre-teen strop if he gets an answer wrong in his homework and you point it out. “Stop embarrassing me,” he will yell.
But even though ‘embarassed’ is one of his default settings these days I have vowed to stop - or at least cut back on - the spoofy mammy stories or the cute retelling of his quirky ways for all to read.
Of course my first thought was that writing this column would now become more of a task.
My second thought was that there is still so much good material to come (I will ask him for a special dispensation for First Holy Communion week as fair is fair and no self respecting Derry mammy journalist would miss the chance to write about that).
But thirdly I thought, well, I suppose I have to respect the privacy of my child especially when he asks me to do so. I don’t want to be the modern day equivalent of one of those relatives who regales the young ones of the family with how I used to change their dirty nappies in front of their friends much to their chagrin.
I had always liked to think that he would, perhaps fondly, look back on these columns one day and smile. That he would see through my words here in print how much I loved him. I am now frantically mentally back pedalling wondering which of my columns could land him in therapy and which he may use in any eventual legal hearing about my unsuitability as a parent.
I suppose I always knew this day would come. I remember when I was going off on maternity leave to have my son, my then editor asked another colleague if she would like to take over the writing of this column for the time I was off. A mother of three boys herself she said her children would be mortified if she wrote about them so openly and honestly in the paper. I didn’t think too much of it at the time but over the years I have thought about when the day would come when he would say: “Right mammy, pack it in”. I kind of hoped that day would come when he was about 35 and married, and perhaps with children of his own but he clearly has other ideas.
Thankfully I do at least have one child left in the house with no understanding at all of privacy issues. She will happily chat to anyone, tell them her name and what she has been up to. Her basic understanding of privacy is to consider every space her own and to feel no shame about annoucing loudly when she needs to go to the toilet (and doing the associated dancing from foot to foot routine for all to see). She has no knowledge I talk of her in a newspaper. I can therefore get away with the embarrassing mammy routine as far as she is concerned for a while longer.
I of course have two options - go all hell for leather on the mammy stories knowing they have a very limited lifespan or try to make sure I don’t embarrass her in the same way I embarrassed her brother. That said, what is a mammy’s job if not to occasionally humiliate their children in public? I will remember to the day I die the day my mother took me to buy my first bra and, on seeing my aunt across the crowded shopping mall of the Richmond Centre shouted: “Hi, our Claire got her first bra!” as loud as she could, turning my face fifty shades of beetroot and making me acutely aware of my blossoming bosom.
Every child needs a tale or two of childhood humiliation to regale their friends with in later life - I would like to think of it as character building.
So while I will respect the boy’s request (with the exception of Holy Communion week), je ne regrette rien.