Richard Hearn gets sentimental

Dear The Boy.
Firstly, as you know, the rules of privacy and the clichés of journalism mean that I replace your own first name with ‘The Boy’. Bear with me on this. You know your own name. Replace it in the following sentences as required.

This is my Thank You letter. (Keep it safe, I’m not the sentimental sort.) I usually use this column for comic effect – normal, unsentimental service will resume next week – but today I just want to say how good you are with Youngest™. (Again, not his real name. You know his real name. You probably say it 200 times in an average day).

Your name, finished with a question mark, is the first thing that Youngest™ says when he wakes up. “Where The Boy?” with a worried expression, is what he says when you are out of the room. “And The Boy?” is the inevitable response whenever we suggest a future activity, whether the drudge of the supermarket, or the thrill of the park. He wants to be with you. And when he’s asked to go elsewhere, his first clause is that you go too.

Whether you are drawing, playing with Lego, going on the trampoline, or watching a DVD, he wants to be next to you, doing the same thing. If you do a half-skip on the walk back from the park, he will copy you like your number one fan. If you shriek something incomprehensible while in the bath or while we’re filling up with petrol, chances are he will try the same thing.

You patiently explain your made-up games and, although we often hear that you’ve won, he loves the time before he loses. You also interpret Youngest™’s own statements – “He’s saying that he’s ‘Lord Blue Stripe’”, you might explain, helpfully, or “he’s saying he wants a lolly. And I do too”.

You are patient with him and with the world when you have to pace your own mealtime to suit his, when you have to move chairs simply because he prefers it that way. You have to decipher his Lego requests, Gogo conversations and coloured pen desires.

You have learnt the adult art of distraction when he is upset and you’ve helped to conjure fun to amuse him when in the most mundane places, whether it’s running up and down a wheelchair ramp, or rushing to a supermarket’s fish counter, treating it like a kind of sleepy Sea Life Centre. You make the funniest jokes in the world (in the eyes of Youngest™ – they’re not bad). Many of his big steps – literally and metaphorically – have been because you are his hero.
I just wanted to let you know.

Illustration: Paul Lewis

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