Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Tuesday. “How about we go and see the Munch together this week?” I say to Eldest. 

I think we need to bond a bit before he goes back to school. The new term already started for the other two.  

“’s at the Tate Modern.”

"Hmmm,” ponders Eldest and I can see, to his credit, that he doesn’t want to go but has the decency not to want to offend. This time. 

“I might be going to Paris,” he says. 

This is the first I’ve heard. 

“Really? Who with?”

“Well… David has a mate with a place there, so, we might get the coach.”

Eldest is sixteen. He’s only ever been away without us on a school trip.

“Right,” I say. “Well, if you don’t go to Paris perhaps you’d like to come to the Munch with me?” 

Then I leave it.

Wednesday. “So… what about the Munch then?” 

“Yeah, maybe,” says Eldest, “it’s just, I might be going to Brussels...”

“Brussels?” I say, cool as a cucumber, “I thought it was Paris?”

“No, Brussels, David has a friend there and we might be able to stay.”

“I’m sure you said Paris… ”

“What do they speak in Brussels?” he asks, ignoring my point, “is it Belgian?”

Middle One snorts derisively. “You twat! It’s French, or maybe sometimes Flemish, there’s no such thing as Belgian!”

“Oh yeah," laughs Eldest, unfazed, "right, well, whatever, I might be going there… or I might be going camping.”

“Right,” I say, “but if you don’t go to Brussels or Paris or camping we could go to the Munch on Friday, I could book it.”

“Friday will be the day we’re going,” he says, “if we’re going.”

Late Wednesday. I go up to his room just before bed and he pauses the laptop so I can’t see what he was watching (it was only Seinfeld) and I say, “I thought I might book tickets tomorrow to see the Munch, if you can’t come I’ll take a friend.”

“Okay,” he says, “but I don’t think I like Munch.”

I’m not sure I like Munch either but that isn’t the point so I google it on the laptop and find a short film about the exhibition. We watch it together. “Looks good,” says Eldest. And he’s right, it does. So the next day I book it, for Friday.

Thursday. I get back late from the theatre and with no signs of a trip to Pairs or Brussels or camping in the offing, I say, “so, are we off to the Munch tomorrow? It’s booked for 11.30.”

“Oh no,” he says mildly, “way too early, I can’t get up then and I don’t really want to go anyway.” 

“Please go upstairs,” I say to Husband later when Eldest has left the room, “and tell him you really think he should go to the Munch with me. I think it will be good for us.” 

“What did he say?” I ask, when Husband gets back down. “He says that’s fine,” he says.

Friday. So we go to the Munch and for the first hour, as we walk down the road and he strides off ahead with his headphones on and ignores me, except to tell me to hurry up because I’m “bloody slow” and when we get out at London Bridge and he tells me I’m “an idiot” for pausing for a moment to get my bearings, I think, why the hell did I persist with this? Why didn’t I just go with a friend and have a nice time instead of taking this rude, unappreciative, slouching teenager?

And then we go round the exhibition, hardly talking, with our audio guides on, me keeping my distance, and then we have lunch together, and then something wonderful happens. He smiles. He relaxes. He starts to talk. We decide to take a look at the Damian Hirst as well because a friend gave us her membership card and we can get in for free and we have a great time in there, ripping it all to shreds, telling each other how stupid it is.

And then we go home, walking through Borough Market, side by side, the sun shining and all the people looking beautiful and happy and London never more stunning and me out in the world with my wonderful 16 year-old son, who I love so much and who I don’t regret taking with me at all, not for a moment. And then we get home and I say, "that was great, I really enjoyed that: being with you,” and he says, “yes, me too, thanks for taking me.”

And I think there's a moral there, if you can find it, about teenagers and not giving up on them, about reaching out and finding that beneath it all there's still a lovely person there. Somewhere. 

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