Before I had children I knew it all...there would be no sweets and I'd never put a dummy in their mouths...the house would not have a fireguard with nappies draped on it to dry and no child of mine would be using a pushchair once it had learned to walk...and I would never ever be the kind of mother who was always taking their child to the local hospital emergency department...
Coming home...in the front seat of a souped up Austin 1100 with new baby on my lap...I had it all planned out. By the end of the first week I'd sent the former husband into town to buy a fireguard...a big one, for the nappies and dainty little cardigans and bibs and vests which were impossible to dry outside...it was a tiny shared backyard, and the clothes lines were always full to bursting.
By the time first son was a month old I'd found myself sidling into a chemist shop just to have a quick look at dummies...I bought a couple when he was six weeks old and couldn't be settled no matter how hard we tried...it worked.
At six months it was a novelty to buy little bars of milk chocolate to push into his ever open mouth...and the day he toddled round our minuscule sitting room was enough to send me straight to the corner shop to get a tube of Smarties...I ate the yellow ones..baby ate the rest.
When he was two years old he broke his leg...when he was three he was bitten by a pet rat in a cage in a pet shop...at four, on a visit to the zoo, he was pecked by a vicious ornamental pheasant and having just about recovered from that, his hand simply disappeared into a Shetland ponies mouth...a hefty sort of a bloke prised the feckin ponies mouth open and released Brendan's hand...it was a bit mangled and covered in horse spit but he recovered and we were given free tickets to come back another time and we never did.
At seven he was playing with a friend when his hand was caught in a door which the friend slammed shut...that wasn't nice and he still bears the scars...
Ten years old, and on his birthday, he fell out of a tree and broke his collarbone.
When he was eleven and doing 'wheelies' on his push bike he fell off backwards and had to lie on his tummy for two weeks to let the bruising and swelling on his back go down. Later the same year he trod on a nail which went straight through his shoe and into his foot...there was copious amounts of blood and much ado about serious infection and so on...he recovered though.
It all went very quiet after that. Until he was seventeen and announced his girlfriend...weeks away from her sixteenth birthday...was pregnant.
But I've left the best bit out...that period of time when he became the teenager from the deepest pits of hell. He went from being the sweetest child ever to a sullen bad-tempered grump who slammed doors and teased his little brother in nasty ways and stayed out all night and didn't go to school...my friends used to say...well, put him in the car and make him go to school...then they'd have a bit of a think and say...perhaps not. He was fast approaching six foot something and built like a brick shit house...
He acquired awful friends...youths who'd half lie on the settee with their great big feet in the way and who guffawed loudly and farted and smoked and grunted when we spoke to them...they'd make coffee and leave mugs all over the floor with fag ends floating in the dregs and cook beans on toast and burn the toast and use all the butter...and let the dogs lick the plates.
What was seriously the end for me was when I'd meet a mother...at the 'bus stop or while in the butchers, and she'd corner me and tell me just how incredibly wonderful Brendan was...he's soo polite and well-mannered...we just love him coming round you know...he's the ideal friend for Piers or Myles or Fred...such a good influence!
I decided he had a doppel-ganger. It was the only possible explanation.