My son’s home from uni again. And it’s weird. I feel like I don’t know him.
Don’t get me wrong – I like him. I was pleased – make that delighted – to see him again. But whereas I used to be absolutely confident I knew the things that would make him happy – large quantities of cupcakes and home-made apple crumble being high on the list – now I realise that even in the couple of months since he went away he’s been changing at the speed of light. Changing to the extent that I can’t picture him and his life any more.
For example, he mentioned ironing things. I can’t imagine my son and ironing in the same universe. Even parallel universes is a bit of a stretch.
He looks awesome. It makes me wonder who else thinks the same thing. And then I stop quickly, because it’s none of my business. He’s 21 now – not that anything magically changes on that specific day, but it does concentrate the mind somewhat. We ate, I apologised for only having shop-bought jam tarts for dessert (he has allergies) and he said no problem, and meant it. He sat down with his laptop and played some Pulp and I realised how quiet the place had been without him. I worked on my latest cross-stitch project and felt ancient.
I think he still likes to come home, and not just because we do his laundry. I try not to say anything to him I wouldn’t say to an adult, because it is so easy to go on addressing your children as – well – children, and figuring out some other way of relating to them can be surprisingly challenging, at least for me.
He’s a philosopher, and he always has loads of reading to do, reading that I probably couldn’t begin to understand, even though I’m not exactly stupid. We share a sense of humour, and perhaps a particular sideways-on view of the world. He’s found the one thing he really wants to do with his life and is focussed laser-like on it, but he’s rounded out in all kinds of other ways, too – after a struggle to fit in for much of his life, even though he went to one of the best secondary schools this country offers, he has finally found his place in the universe.
And it’s not here in Manchester. That’s how things should be. But it’s still weird. I feel we can assume nothing. We have to get to know him all over again. I hope he goes on feeling that it’s worth returning the compliment. I like having him around.