One of the weird things about being the dad of a near-teenage boy is the fact that they do all these grown up things. Like cooking their own dinner (well, once), or chatting up girls at school discos, or travelling around town... on their own! Even becoming a rock star!
You know how, in your head, your beloved little (or not so little) lad or lass is still about three, and your heart still does backflips of terror when you think of them on a bus, or crossing a busy road, or navigating through crowds of menacing hoodies.
Don't get me wrong: I'm really proud of Ben's new-found independence, and I know he's only going to get bigger, and braver, and less and less dependent from here on in.
But, honestly? I still have to check myself from holding his hand every time we cross the road. And I have to stop myself from saying 'Watch out for the.../don't go too.../never talk to...' every time my precious boy ventures out of the house.
I guess one of the most difficult things for parents is learning to let go; to trust your son or daughter to, mostly, do the right things and only get into the occasional, non-police/ambulance-involving scrape. And to ignore all the anxiety-provoking headlines and remember that the world (especially our little bit of it) is, basically, a safe place full of decent people.
Anyway, I digress. So among all these strangely grown-up things Ben now does is play the guitar - very well. He's really keen, and dedicated, so he's picked it up pretty fast, and is about to give his first public performance with the school rock band.
Which is great.
What's not quite so great is when I'm trying to work, and he insists on practising on the sofa, which is about five feet from my desk.
I'll be concentrating on a potentially career-derailing email and there'll be this great Changggggg which makes me jump out of my skin, and delete two hundred carefully crafted words.
'Ben!' I snap. 'Play somewhere else!'
'But the amp's in here,' he says plaintively.
'Move the stupid amp then!' I grump.
'I bet Jimi Hendrix's dad let him play in the living room...' he mutters darkly, hauling amp and guitar to his room.
Smiling despite myself, I lean back and muse a little. My boy, playing lead in some super-group, headlining Glastonbury and American enormo-domes, the money pouring in...
'Actually...' I say, 'it's OK. Come, practice! I'll work in the kitchen.'
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