Kelly Rose Bradford
I push up my Burt's Bees lipbalm, slick it across my own lips, then offer it to my son, William, eight. He grabs it and applies it greedily to his mouth.
We are on the Tube, and opposite me, a mum with a rufty-tufty shaven headed son looks on in horror.
I'm used to the odd looks when I whip out the balm, or a tube of moisturiser and offer it to William. Or when I spritz his hair with leave-in conditioner and brush it through if it's looking a bit flyaway or tangled when we're out.
But lip balm and conditioning spray are just the tip of my son's beauty iceberg. His flowing blonde locks are slaves to weekly deep-conditioning treatments; his baby soft hands are regularly and liberally doused with hand-cream, and his perfect little toes are lovingly pedicured every Sunday evening.
If I spot a patch of dry, flaky skin, or, horror of horrors, the merest hint of a blemish, then it's action stations: a swift exfoliation followed by a vast smearing of Sudocrem, which is totally our desert island product, treating everything from sunburn to shaving rashes (er, no, I'm not shaving him...I'm thinking more of my legs and bikini line...). In fact, I think my household alone probably keeps the Sudocrem company afloat, given the amount we get through every month.
And no, I did not want a daughter, nor am I in danger of 'turning him into a poofter' as one relative had the audacity/idiocy/lack of brain matter to claim. I am simply teaching him to take care of himself and to take pride in his appearance.
Or, should I say, I am taking care of his appearance and hoping he will embrace it with the same gusto when he is old enough to do it all himself. Despite this, I am aware that the day MIGHT come when he pushes me away with a 'ugh, I don't want that stuff on,'. And that will be fine and I'll take a step back. Reluctantly. And with a tear. But I will. However, until that day comes...
And despite the odd looks, and ridiculous comments, I am relieved to discover I am not the only parent who pampers their young male offspring. My friend Sam tells me she does much the same with her stepson, treating him to weekly facials and masks 'in a bid to quell teen acne'. She also fesses up to the odd eyebrow pluck. 'He'd be beyond embarrassed if his mates found out,' she says, 'but he rather likes it, really.'
Exactly. As does my little boy, although he does draw the line at some things: when he set off for a party looking resplendent in black skinny jeans, a grey shirt, and a black and grey trilby hat, I tried to convince him that painting his nails black would be the icing on the cake.
I showed him a pic of Keith Richards with black nails. It didn't work. There was no way William was going to let me loose with a bottle of nail varnish. (Though with hindsight, showing him a pic of a scary old man with painted nails probably wasn't the best of ideas, so I lay the blame for Wills' refusal firmly at Keith's door – he would almost certainly have let me if I hadn't shown him the picture.)
Boys in the main though, do not seem as pliable as mine. I asked some of my mummy friends whose sons were not at one with a bottle of facewash or intensive moisturisers just what their routines were – a cat's lick and a promise?
'Routine? You've got to be joking! I've barely persuaded him to use a flannel in the bath!' said one, whilst another just shook her head sadly and said she often resorted to chasing her five-year-old round the house and wiping him down with baby-wipes rather than bathing him just to avoid the trauma of putting him in the tub.
But some pals, despite their denials DO have a regime in place - they just don't see it as such.
'Bath every night, the old painstaking dousing with leave-in conditioner, a short, sharp seeing-to with the nail clippers once a week, a squirt of hand cream (E45, nothing girlie),' said one beauty-routine-denier and mother of two delicious little boys, adding, 'and a smidge of lip balm (their own manly Shrek one, not my posh cocoa butter one). But there's no 'beauty regime' about any of it though - it's more a case of needs must.'
Piffle! That IS a beauty routine! But I do agree on the 'needs must' comment - my son's routine is totally built on 'needs must'. His long hair NEEDS TLC, his gorgeous peaches and cream complexion NEEDS maintaining, and his hands and nails NEED to be clean and well tended.
And as for that rosebud mouth – needs must means much balming. As a result he always looks and smells gorgeous. And not a flaky bit of skin in sight. And surely no one can argue that's a bad thing?
What do you think? Do you pamper your sons? Or am I a grade A loon?