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I had a long walk with only son the other day. It was a good antidote to work. He gave me a very detailed description of life in Boudicca’s time. “Do you think Boudicca was a good leader?” I asked him. “She was good, but she had one fault. She was very loud. When she went into battle she used to shout Aaaaaarg,” he said with some gusto. Well, as leadership flaws go, and we have a lot to draw on these days, that seems a mild one. I have to admit I don’t know very much about Boudicca so I’m thinking being loud might not have been her only flaw.
It is interesting to see how children try to make sense of all the bits of information they hear in a day, whether at home or at school or from the guy with the purple hair on Youtube. Only son is still at the stage where he listens to what his parents say and reflects on it. I told him the other day that he had a new cousin called Fred. We have a friend called Fred. “It’s not that Fred,” I said. “because it would be hard to give birth to a 45-year-old man.” Only son considered this concept for a moment. “Yes, mum. Fred is 45 and that is seven years younger than you, but it is still very old,” proclaimed only son to all assorted passers-by. Only son proceeded: “You are 52 [he lingered over this bit] which is a lot older than Fred and dad who is only 51.” Only son is brutally honest. He told my mum the other day that she had one thing she was really good at, but she might not like it when he said what it was. “It’s swearing,” said only son after a short pause. His sisters dissolved into fits of giggles.
While younger children may be more forthright in their views and may still be interested in what adults have to say, teenagers tend more towards challenging their parents’ views, if the parents are lucky, or indeed ridiculing them. I keep making the mistake of saying that daughter one could email her friends to ask their opinions about things or check who is picking up whom on evenings out. “Email?” she says, her eyebrows rising and her phone in her hand. “We live in the 21st century, mum.”
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.