I have two children, a daughter and a son. I think I was alive before they were born, but I can’t remember what it felt like not to have somebody else’s – two elses, in my case – best interests always at the front of my mind. It shifts your whole world on its axis, in a way I had never understood until I first looked into my baby daughter’s face.
Four years later I was looking down at another little stranger, my son. He’s nineteen now and I’m still sometimes taken aback when I see a great big hairy leg sticking out from under his bedclothes, remembering the little sprite he used to be.
Obviously there are no favourites. Maternal love isn’t subject to portion control, it’s endless and I love my children equally, totally and utterly. But while I would never put one child before the other, the relationship between a mother and a daughter and a mother and a son is different – just as it is between each of them and their father.
The particular poignancy of loving a son is knowing that the physical change in him will be so exponential. Obviously, it’s a huge deal when your little girl starts to turn into a woman, but the change has a gently fluidity, so it seems to happen like time-lapse photography of a flower blooming.
Boys, on the other hand, go through a sudden transformation of werewolf intensity. From Dr Jekyll into the hairy, hormonally crazed Mr Hyde. When this hulking creature slopes into the kitchen in his size twelve trainers, roaring, and eats the entire contents of the fridge, it can be really hard to associate it with the little boy, who used to climb onto your lap and twiddle your hair while sucking his thumb.
But from time to time, even when he’s a huge man, with scratchy stubble on his chin, the little boy will suddenly reappear for a moment, in a grin, or a giggle and your mother’s heart will clench in poignant adoration.
My smells of a son are gummy sweeties, Play Do, Pritt Stick, poster paint and wax crayons. Earthy mud on polyester football kit. The sweet antiseptic of sticking plasters. Fruity bubble gum and the minty tang of chong – as he and his friends called chewing gum. Bicycle chain oil and rubber inner tubes. The chemical overload of Lynx sprayed profusely over sweat, hair gel and toxic trainers. Fried onions and meat on the breath. Tomato ketchup. Beer.
My scents for a son are:
I am Juicy Couture by Juicy Couture
Black by Bulgari
L’Air de Rien by Miller Harris
Serge Noire by Serge Lutens
Rocker Femme by Britney Spears
Dirty by Lush
Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier