The Big Issue : Edition 460
12 THE BIG ISSUE 6 – 19 JUNE 2014 I’ll happily take the age of nearly seven. I love his preposterous blend of sarcasm and righteousness. Last night I stupidly told him I was too busy to tuck him into bed. He wasn’t having any of it. “Let me tell you a story,” he said. “It’s called How Long Do You Think It Takes to Tuck Someone into Bed?” Yes, he specialises in rhetorical nonfiction. I clambered up and we pulled the blankets over us. “What shall we talk about, Dad?” “Aeroplanes?” “Good idea.” He’s resolutely fair. I’ve never met a more generous bloke. He has zero capitalist instincts: any money received is passed to the nearest joker with their hand out. Any sweet treats will be dished out evenly. He knows right from wrong (Mum is right; Dad is wrong). He refuses to take more than his fair share. It never escapes me that we are routinely privy to abnormal human behaviour. Empathy runs wild through his whole being. We all have strange preoccupations with our children. My dad appears to have had only two with me: the fear I was getting brainwashed by left-wingers, and the yearning that one day I would get a real job. I think they were linked. I can understand the preoccupation with occupation. I take it as an early sign of impending descent into Dullsville that I already worry about what sort of jobs are going to be available for my son. It’s more likely, though, that I’ll take the bullet. He’ll be young when he (and how I hate the term) ‘enters the workforce’. It’ll be old buggers like me scrounging around for anything resembling a job. But for now he stays paused in time as a small, blond boy. Tapping mud off tiny soccer boots, turning Lego blocks into ships, receiving a well-earned tucking into bed. I recite a prayer every night. It goes: I must remember everything. “On Mothers’ Day my mother got into the spirit by ringing up all us kids and making us apologise for all the bad things we said and did when we were younger. It was long phone call.” RICKY PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND(RAZER)ANDALANATTWOOD(RICKY) Well Spent Youth IT DOESN’T SEEM right that he should be sitting at a computer, tapping out emails to his friends. He’s six, going on seven, going on Gmail. “Four sentences done,” he declares. Good. We all know how hard it is to write a decent sentence. He’s about as good a speller as I am. He understands the fight for the right word. Sometimes an evening spent in front of our computers is like a support-group meeting. People say kids grow up fast, but people say lots of things. At the very least, anecdotal evidence confirms you’d be better off not missing a minute of childhood. Some people have a fear of their own mortality; I live in constant fear of his teenage years – a younger but taller version of me living in the room next door that has the curtains permanently drawn and smells of rotting socks. It’s a cruel case of history soon to be repeating. On Mothers’ Day my mother got into the spirit by ringing up all us kids and making us apologise for all the bad things we said and did when younger. It was a long phone call. It seems inconceivable that unkind words or deeds could ever sprout from the angelic soul that scales the ladder to his bunk, pulls a mess of blankets over his skinny body and asks the question that requires no serious answer: “Kiss?” I find myself constantly chasing after his advancing years, trying to nobble them before they take off with my son. I threaten him: “If you dare turn seven this year there will be big trouble!” He laughs and taunts me: “I am turning seven! Then eight, then nine, then...” Stop! I get the horrible picture. On the phone to my mum, I asked her a serious journalistic question: “Was I ever not a complete shithead?” She said diplomatically, “Ten to 12 is a good age.” » Ricky French (@frenchricky) is a writer, worrier and warrior. Sometimes simultaneously.