Last weekend we had my son's birthday party.
He's nine. He requested a LaserQuest party, having gone once with the church youth group and had a great time. By having twelve children there they had the place to themselves. Of course, he invited fourteen, expecting some to be unable to come - but they all could! So much for my father's theory that 20% of people can't attend when invited!
I know - all this is pretty routine stuff. What is unusual, for a nine-year-old boy, is that he invited girls. Of his own volition.
And all five of them came!
Girls are, of course, different to boys. Like me, they are all perfectly behaved and quiet and unassuming (ahem!)
They got picked last for the teams (grrrr) but thankfully each team won one game each (phew!) Then, when eating afterwards I can categorically state that not one of the girls started eating the polystyrene tub the food came in; none of them put plastic bands in their mouths to look like toothless aliens; and I'm sure they felt quite justified in throwing back the ketchup covered paper that was hurled their way. [I love boys' parties...]
One asked me, "Are all boys' parties like this?" Felt obliged to be honest.
My son, of course, got teased for inviting girls. He took it well - just slightly pink. He was sat next to one of the girls, J, which didn't help matters. And of course various other boy/girl mixes were touted as being boyfriend/girlfriend, to the amusement of those with the loudest voices and greatest need to be macho...
It is quite a scary thought that I have all this - and more - to come! Aged nine, I can laugh it off, but in only a few years it will be serious. Then hormones will rage through the house. No boy will be good enough for my daughter, and I will worry about my son's choice of girl. I'll have to trust them on dates, enjoy the extended family company and - worst of all - recognise that I will be second in their lives! Oh, the joys of parenthood - the drip, drip, drip of letting go.
So, imagine my delight when an email comes through from J's older sister:
I've found out that J really likes you. Would you go out with her? (If you dont know what that means, just reply!!)
I show it to Son.
"But we're just friends!" he says.
And I smile, because he means it. And he understands that P's sister is winding her up as much as him.
And he smiles.
'Cos it's lovely to be loved. Even a little bit.
And even when you're not. Not really.
It's good to have friends.