Ruth Walker: ‘My boy is becoming a man’

Ruth Walker. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ruth Walker. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A STRANGE and curious development at Walker Towers. An unsettling phenomenon that, in my nearly 20 years of parenting, I have never encountered and, therefore, am unsure what to make of it.

The first time it happened, it was such a surprise I figured it was some kind of mean trick on the part of Son Number One. You know the sort of thing. “Was everything OK while I was gone?” I might ask innocently. To which he’ll reply, stoney-faced: “No, the house burnt down and the cat’s dead.”

So, when I walk into the house after a long and stressful day to be met by a bubbling pot of soup on the hob and a freshly baked sponge cooling on the kitchen surface I am, I think understandably, a little taken aback.

“I made soup,” he says, stirring absent-mindedly.

“No you didn’t,” I reply, convinced there must be a sneaky tin of Heinz winter vegetable tucked in the bin.

“Did.”

“OK, explain, then, how you knew what to do.”

“Pfft. Did it at home ec, didn’t I? Just sweated some onions, chopped some carrots, sweet potato, chicken stock and boiled for an hour. It’s easy.”

What are these words coming from my son’s mouth? Who snuck into the house this morning after I’d left for work and replaced my second-born with Jamie Oliver?

I peer into the pot, unconvinced. OK, it does at least look home-made. I smell. Not bad. I examine the debris – the trail of destruction left behind from an afternoon of soup-making magic: knives, carrot peelings, blender, pink pinny. I have to admit it. On the face of things, my son has just made his first pot of soup. And in the grand panoply of childhood landmarks – first tooth, first word, first steps, first piercing – this is the one that makes me most proud. I think I glow a little.

“I was bored,” he offers, by way of explanation. Fair enough.

The hungry hordes descend on both soup and cake as though their next meal might just be the dried stuff even the cat refuses to eat. The cook-o-phobe in me couldn’t be happier. The mum in me wonders what has happened to a child who, until that moment, had considered pouring cereal into a bowl then adding milk too much exertion in the kitchen department thank you very much.

Stranger still, this has not been a one off. Having popped his soup cherry with vegetable (surprisingly tasty), he has since moved on to lentil (stick-to-the-ribs thick). It has been my lunch for a week.

What could have caused this seismic shift in attitude, I wonder. Perhaps he’s met a girl he wants to impress, a friend suggests. It could be that. But I suspect something else is at play. Son Number One is about to start his first job. It’s only part-time, and he’s hardly the next Alan Sugar, but, for him, it is more than just a job: it is a sense of self-esteem, of being self-sufficient, of growing up and moving on. Hell, my boy, bless him, is becoming a man.

Or, as Other Son put it, he’s turning into Granny.