Twelve years ago today, I woke up with a stomach ache. And, despite being almost nine months pregnant, I blamed it on a curry.
(I looked it up in a baby book, you see. It couldn’t POSSIBLY be contractions. Not coming that fast…)
About four hours after that, I was a parent.
And, to be frank, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.
You were long and thin – very thin! 80th centile in height, 20th in weight, and, really, no change there.
Your head was still misshapen from a traumatic, if rapid, unanaesthetised journey from uterus to outside world, the pair of us wailing and bleating.
For, yea, while many women set out with the intention of a natural childbirth and end up under the epidural, I am one of mercifully few who had every intention of utilising whatever chemical cosh was out there and ended up au naturel.
And whining about it, obviously. “So… I can’t have an epidural, you tell me? How about you just HIT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH SOMETHING HARD, then, and wake me up when this has stopped?”
But I digress…
You had an unnerving, quasi-reptilian stare (“Oooh! Isn’t he alert?!” said the midwife), the angular, beaky features that make one realise how much baby birds have in common with dinosaurs.
And, as you were placed on my bosom, you took one look at me and started to cry.
Then you ate, for about half an hour, urinated over your grandfather, and continued to eat for the next five and a half hours until I was allowed to leave the hospital.
“Oooh, he’ll be asleep in no time,” said the midwife, repeatedly.
And, to be honest, you’re still not that good at going to bed.
And now you’re twelve. How DAFUQ did that happen?
I’m 38. How did that happen, as well?
All those birthdays…
The first birthday, with the bunny rabbit candle on the cake, and the swimming party at the pool.
In November! A London November! I must have been mad.
The fourth birthday, at EuroDisney, your big happy smile and your genuine awe at Mickey Mouse.
The fireworks in the London back garden for the seventh, eighth and ninth, apple bobbing in the bath.
Your tenth, ice skating in Brisbane. Your eleventh, at the Water Cube water park in Beijing.
And now your twelfth, paragliding in Nepal, scampering down a slope, catching the pull of the wind, pulled back by the wing behind you, then up, up into the air, soaring on the thermals with the raptors and the kites, Annapurna snowclad in the background…
The weird thing is, though, you’re still the same person.
Not as round as you were for the period when Pauline minded you and fed you to the gunnels with illicit chocolate pud as a dose of love (“He’s not had any sweeties, has he?” I’d say “Oh, no, no sugar…”).
But still the same calm, chilled, generally unfazable person.
Your terrible twos were a single tantrum.
“Now that you’ve behaved like that over it,” we said, “You’re definitely not getting it.” And that was that…
You’ve always had a way with words (“How about?” was a favourite phrase when you were not far over one).
And you’ve always been generous. Even as a very, very little child, you always shared.
And now, as you’re one year off your teens, I wonder who you’ll be this year…
I’m hoping the terrible teens will be like the toddler years. I can dream, right?
You’re more assertive now. Still generous, mind.
That Kobo Dad bought you for your birthday? You’ve picked a selection of books and made them into “Mum’s Shelf” (and, yes, you’re right!, Foundation does repay rereading, and yes, I WILL finish The God Delusion now, I promise!).
You’re funnier now, rocking that deadpan, obscenely entertaining. (“Mum… Look how many fucks I give…”)
Your feet are the same size as mine, your hands still slightly smaller, the top of your head is past my chin and headed for my nose, you who were once so little I had to bend down and you reach up to hold my hand.
You’re endlessly open-minded, accepting everything but bigotry and understanding even bigotry when you meet it.
And, well, you’re pretty darn brave. Happy birthday, son! I’m proud of you.
And, in case you missed it last time round, here’s 11 reasons why.