“He’s a third child who thinks he’s a first child!” a wise friend once observed of our Tiddles McGee.
And dang it, she was right. Tiddles burst into this world, sized up the competition and realised that being the Textbook Third Child – you know, the one who’s supposed to “fit in with the rest of the family” – just wasn’t going to cut it. Nuh-uh.
For the first year of life, he tried to make me his bitch by completely depriving me of sleep. This quickly reduced me to this haggard creature with long greasy hair and badly matching clothes that caused passersby to remark “Man, that’s one fat-arse junkie!”. And in the end, rather than making me his bitch, this strategy just turned me into a bitch and I spent most of my time shouting at The Competition rather than doting on him.
After that, he dabbled a little in climbing things to get my attention. Why, he was a regular little mountaineer, staging regular jail breaks of his cot, scaling furniture, leaping tall bookshelves in a single bound.
And then, once he learnt to walk, he quickly began his transformation into “Ninja-With-Jazz-Hands”. Anyone who has ever seen him wielding a weapon of any kind can attest that he is at once nimble, debonair and utterly deadly. However, after he’d delivered one too many “whackings” with the pointy end of a light saber, Mr Justice must have issued him with an Official Warning outlining the legal implications of killing off his siblings and he tried yet another tack.
Instead, he became Tragi-Comic Man – you know, those contrasting theatre masks that surely must only ever be donned by lazy actors or ones who have had too much botox and can’t move their face anyway. Anyway, as Tragi-Comic man, McGee was either A) the life of the party, telling jokes, cheeky and charming; OR B) wailing inconsolably, gnashing his teeth and beating his breast (and sometimes mine) over the very slightest of injuries, physical or emotional.
Whatever he was doing, it was unmissable.
And then suddenly, the day came when I bundled both Mr Justice and The Pixie off to school and it was just him and me. And Mr Tiddles McGee put down his weapons and his masks and came and sat next to me on the couch.
I asked him if he missed his sister.
“Nooooooo!” he replied, as if that was the silliest question I’d ever asked.
And your brother?
“No!” he replied. Second silliest question.
What about your dad? Do you miss your dad when he’s at work?
“No,” he said, simply.
Do you miss anybody?
“Mummy. I miss Mummy,” he said and hugged me tight.
Now, some people might think he doesn’t really understand the meaning of “to miss somebody” or, perhaps, he doesn’t actually know that I am his mother. Or even, as I later went on to muse on twitter, I am not the mother he wishes me to be and it’s that idea of “Mummy” that he misses. Yes, perhaps.
Or maybe he’s remembering the little baby boy he used to be who would cry like the world had ended every time I left the room.
Yes, Tiddles McGee is finally happy. He’s waited three long years and now he’s got me all to himself.
Moreover, he’s got the TV all to himself. Which I actually, now that I think about it, has possibly been his real objective all along…