DorkyDad and I were lying in bed the other night. We were laughing.
“He’s like you,” he said.
“No, no, no. Don’t blame that mess on me,” I said. “He’s all you. Every last bit of it. It’s all your fault.”
It was a shock to have a son. It was all a shock, actually. Pregnancy, labour, birth… that deep intake of breath that came when I was handed a solid little body for the first time.
I was so sure it was a girl. We had chosen her name. She would arrive calm and quiet in a rosy glow. Instinct would kick in and the rest would be easy.
That’s what DorkySon says now. ‘
“Ha! Tricking you!’
He gets some things from me, for sure – his stubbornness, his aversion to big crowds, his struggle to wake up in the morning. How well I know that sweet, sleepy longing for five more minutes under the warm duvet.
But, other than that, he is DorkyDad in miniature. He is all boy.
They both have a taste for jellybeans, digging around in the bottom of the bag to find their favourite flavours, then scrunching up their faces to chomp and chew through the colourful sugary spectrum.
They’re ice cream fiends too. Whatever the weather – sunshine or snow – their eyes light up at the sight of a scoop shop. DorkyDad prefers plainer flavours; vanilla or strawberry, a chocolate flake if he’s treating himself. DorkySon likes to jazz it up a bit. Jamaican coffee, with a marshmallow mix. Mango sorbet, with sprinkles on top. We always have to find a nearby bench. Somewhere they can work around those waffle cones, exchange nibbles, debate in detail who made the better choice.
There are the cowlicks that won’t sit down, no matter how much styling product or maternal spit is applied. There are the spontaneous, shotgun laughs, shocking and loud in the most inappropriate of places. There is the scowling brow of concentration, the piercing blue stare, that same guttural growl when life gets too much.
Then there is all that energy. Goodness. Where does it come from? There are fearsome wrestling matches, closely followed by the tightest of hugs. There are a lot of books, and jokes about poo. There is hypochondria – the constant administration of band-aids and ointment, reassurance and magic kisses.
Neither one of them can open a pot of yoghurt without it exploding across the room. Neither one of them can hear live music without stopping for a happy wee jig on the street. They both call me through, from another room, or upstairs, to help find some beloved object that is usually less than a foot away.
On Sunday afternoons there are the arguments about television – DorkySon desperate for one of his shows, DorkyDad determined to watch some war film or another. Eventually they settle on a happy compromise – extreme engineering, or a high-speed car chase. They snuggle up together, content and quiet.
Both my boys love playing with words and sounds, turning up the radio and dancing their metaphors around the room. Pithy puns tumble from their lips, and sometimes they even surprise each other with a perfect rhythm or rhyme.
They like to feel loved, and are loving in return. There are tickles and back scratches, skulls often pressed hard against each other. They both sidle up to me when they need a little attention. This is a tactile house, full of kissbombs and DorkyHugs, a little boy who likes to fold his Daddy’s ears into paper aeroplanes.
It was a good trick, they played on me. I think they might have been in on it together. I didn’t get the daughter I was expecting. I didn’t get the calm arrival or the rosy glow. But I got so, so much more.
There is nothing in the world like boy love. It is enthusiastic, and always a delight.