At a rammed half term visit to the Science Museum surrounded by tourists, prams and irritated parents a hand reaches for mine to hold on, my middle son is 10 years old and it felt good that he still needs the security of his mum in overwhelming situations. I have 3 sons ranging from the oldest at 12 to the youngest at 7 and I have a confession I don’t want them to grow up.
When my youngest son was born, I was done. No more babies for us as I struggled with a baby, toddler and small child, it was hard work and relentless. But I love tiny people, especially the newborn and toddler cutie pie stage and I’m desperately clinging onto my 7 year old staying cute. I still like to hold him like a baby when he gets out of the bath and sprinkle magic sleeping dust to stop the terrible nightmares he gets. I tell him constantly that he’ll always be my baby but he’s not a baby and neither are my other sons.
My oldest started secondary school last September which involves him getting a bus to school and being a latch key kid, it feels so wrong letting him come home on his own to an empty house whilst I’m at work. It’s hard to let go. I spent 12 years arranging childcare for him and now I’m leaving him on his own. It doesn’t help the guilt when I get loaded questions from friends about whether it is ‘legal’ to leave him alone. But gradually it felt normal to let him grow up although the days he spends alone at home during his longer school holidays still feels slightly wrong. I’ve learnt to give him his independence; he now has life skills such as cooking, getting the bus and being happy in his own company.
The 10 year old is another matter, he thinks he’s 18 (wants to be a youtuber) and is desperate to do everything his older brother does. He has dyslexia so he naturally solves his own problems and is extremely creative in his negotiations with us (which is exhausting). Constantly, he reminds us, when we let his older brother do certain things like going to the shop on his own. It would be easier to let him reach particular independence milestones earlier but we can’t let him grow up too quickly.
The biggest change for me has been at bedtime in letting them grow up. We spent months (and many tears) getting all 3 boys into a bedtime routine that involved 7pm (ish) bedtime. I’ve cherished this routine, and we’ve been strict with it. But now they need less sleep and the 12 year old stays up until 9pm whilst the middle 10 year old son’s bedtime is 8pm. But this means my evenings that I cherished have disappeared and this part of growing up I definitely don’t like (no more risqué TV). There are positives, as I get alone time with the oldest and we bond over watching reality TV like Storage Wars together. I imagine this time of snuggling up together on the sofa together will disappear when puberty hits, so my evening might have changed but there are benefits of letting my oldest grow up.
So the next time all of my sons want to be tucked in at bedtime and I feel myself getting annoyed, I have to remind myself that it won’t last and enjoy their kisses and cuddle. I need to focus on helping my boys grow into confident and independent people rather than mourning the loss of their ‘cuteness’. Plus there are always grandchildren to look forward to (but not too soon!).
A Guest Blog from Lesley Soden
Lesley works full-time as Deputy Director for Business & Strategy for a mental health Trust in west London and lives in Ealing with her 3 energetic boys and long-suffering husband. She was lucky enough to work part-time whilst her children were small and misses her time spent at playgroups and hanging out with other parents.
Along with being a taxi-driver and reluctant cheerleader at her kids football, hockey and cricket matches she is obsessed with fashion, interiors and of course Instagram.