Today I’m going to introduce you to the other man in my life. The one who’s just over a metre tall. For one post only, I’ll call my four-year-old Darling Son by his name: Rupert. As in The Bear. As in The Red (he is blessed with gorgeous pale ginger hair that he calls ‘orange’). And not at all as in Rupert Penry-Jones. Honest guv.
Some (I’m looking at you, dear husband) have questioned the wisdom of calling a ginger boy Rupert. He’s either going to have to play rugby or be the funniest boy in school, right? Luckily, he is already showing potential for being sporty and extremely funny. His core strength is astonishing: he basically has a baby six pack. What I would call ‘extreme yoga’ he calls ‘hanging out upside down while watching Disney Junior’.
He’s a tall, skinny little thing – his trousers are either too short or the right length but falling down around his tiny hips and peachy bottom. He has an acute sense of the absurd, and (obviously) a penchant for toilet humour (saying ‘poo’ can literally make him cry with laughter until he can’t breathe). He has a real twinkle in his eye and a great imagination. He makes up imaginary characters with extraordinary names, two of the most popular currently being the superheroesque ‘Acival’ and the more slapstick-sounding ‘Eldon Bun’. He describes really cool things like torches and doing a forward roll as ‘awesome’. He loves soft play, and theme parks, and playing with small Playmobil/Happyland figures he calls ‘persons’.
Rupert started school last month. He was only four at the end of August, so he is the youngest in the school. His big sister took five terms to stop crying and clinging to me every morning, bless her, so I was bracing myself for another tough start. Sure enough, on Day 1, there were a LOT of tears when me and DH dropped him off. His fantastic teacher phoned me at lunchtime to tell me he was absolutely fine and having a great time. And ever since, he’s trooped into his classroom, clutching his book bag and his packed luncheon, without a backward glance. Rupe seems to have settled in beautifully, and is genuinely loving learning. He loves his teachers, is full of excitement every day about the new letter he’s learned, and has made some little friends, boys and girls. I am astonished, and indescribably relieved, that he is so happy at school. Although totally foxed by the sheer volume of plastic boxes and drinks bottles he has managed to lose from his packed lunches in half a term.
My relationship with Rupert is easy, and natural, and very physical. He is VERY cuddly. He climbs into bed for a quick cuddle most mornings, and he smells delicious. If I’m yelling at Rupe it’s usually something utterly banal like having to ask him for the umpteenth time to put his shoes on. It’s like clouds passing the sun. He is sensitive, and kind, and loving. He has stunning blue eyes and a winning smile, and he LEAPS into my arms when he needs a hug, making my heart melt.
He does sometimes get himself in a pickle, especially when he can’t find the right words to tell a grown-up what he’s upset about. We have extended whimpering and whining and tears instead of him using his very good vocabulary, and he is quite capable, frankly, of being what DH calls ”a little shit’. But he makes us laugh, a lot, and we’re both aware that Rupe is not to be underestimated just cos he’s the youngest. Ever since he started talking has insisted on using full, Victorian-style formal sentences. Why say ‘no’ when you can say: ‘I don’t think so, mama, not at the moment, thank you.’
He was a nightmare baby: always full of wind, crying the whole time, permanent upset tummy, never slept through the night till he was 18 months old. It was a big shock after my angel of a daughter who slept through from nine weeks. Nevertheless, I had post-natal depression that was not diagnosed until she was seven months old, and I found new motherhood, even with a ‘good’ baby, a complete head-fuck. And then two years and three weeks later, I had this tricksy little bugger (conceived the month after I came off the antidepressants) and bonded with him just fine.
We finally worked out the wind and Appalling Poo thing: he’s dairy intolerant. (I know this is very Surrey, and I apologise, but there it is). So now we know that he has to avoid cheese and milk and yoghurt, and all is well. He can take a little bit of butter in a recipe, and a little bit of milk chocolate. We don’t have much dairy in the house since I got on my high horse about the potential link with hormonal cancers anyway, so it’s not at all difficult accommodating him. He eats a lot of fruit and sorbet for pudding; Alpro soya vanilla puddings are like the best custard ever, and we all have almond milk on our cereal.
Rupe’s favourite thing is watching a film. He adores our trips to the cinema, and has an astonishing attention span where telly and films are concerned. He’s been watching full-length movies all the way through since he was two. For which I have offered up a silent prayer of thanks many times when he’s been on a half day at nursery and I have had a work deadline. For his fourth birthday, he asked to see Brave at the cinema, ‘after lunch at Jamie’s’.
His other favourite thing is Star Wars. He has two lightsabers and a black plastic mask that chants all Mr D. Vadar’s best lines, and a Stormtrooper outfit. He and Bridget play Star Wars a lot. They play beautifully together, most of the time, whether they are creating space ships out of cardboard boxes or doing Lego. They love each other very much and laugh together a lot. It’s a total joy watching them grow up as a little double act. I hope they stay close forever. He brings out her more physical, noisy side, and she encourages his creativity. They descend into hysterics very, very quickly. Yesterday they both had hiccups and tears streaming down their cheeks after indulging in a bit of cross-dressing: Rupe in B’s pink pirate outfit, and she in his t-shirt and swimming trunks. This screaming laughter is a delightful sound if you are hearing them having fun several rooms away, and not so great if you’re on a moderately long car journey. They both adore Olly Murs and know every song on the album off by heart: Bridgey singing along perfectly in tune and doing all the harmonies, and Rupey doing his sweet, shy, pretty much tone-deaf barking.
Rupey is well known for his penchant for ‘a drink and a snack’. His tipple of choice is ‘hot lemon’ – warm lemon high-juice squash in a big beaker. He gets through pints of the stuff; I’ve never known a child drink so much. If you don’t know where Rupe is, he’s probably watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates with a hot lemon, a biscuit, and his precious Flat Bear tucked under his arm. His ultimate treat is to spend an entire Saturday in his PJs, over which he will consent to slip one of his many dressing up outfits if I absolutely have to pop to Sainos. (We arrrrr going through a bit of a piratey phase).
He’s a real mummy’s boy at the moment, although daddy will come into his own when he falls in love with balls of all shapes and sizes, I’m sure. He’s already got a killer sense of what to do with a ball: he can drop-kick, and kick long and on target. DH taught him to ride his grown-up bike with no stabilisers this summer, and he looks delicious wobbling along with his massive helmet on his little boncey head. He has massive hands – something tells me he’s going to be a tall boy, and once we get round to Sunday morning rugby sessions, no-one will be messing with this ginger whinger.
So that’s my adorable, cheeky, funny Rupert Bear. I love him fiercely, and he brings me enormous joy, and totally winds me up. And I can’t wait to give him a cuddle after school today.