On the morning of his 6th birthday, my middle son Hugh wakes next to me. His brother James, 3, has been sick four times in the night and Tissy, my partner has got into bed with him, moving Hugh in alongside me.
Typically, I slept through the projectile phase. But I’ve been awake for a while when Hugh stirs. As I flick through pictures from his previous birthdays, he reaches across to me, drowsily. He is looking for his mother’s hair to twiddle: a soothing tick for him, a sleep-depriving irritant for her.
His fingers fall on my stubbly cheek and he pulls them back as if they’d grazed against prickly gorse.
The instinctive recoil is a reminder that Hugh’s cuddles are dispensed sparingly when not exclusively reserved for Mummy. Still, I’m glad when he turns away and goes back to sleep because I’m fixated on my scrolling search.
It is something I should have done last night and if I he sleeps on until I’m finished, his birthday will be off to a good start. I’ll have accomplished something before anyone else is awake. Mood-wise, I’ll start the day in positive territory.
By the time I’ve uploaded and emailed the pictures above, Hugh has woken up and decamped to the sitting room. Shortly afterwards his bleary-eyed little brother walks into the bedroom, deep in thought.
“What’s that super hero with the hammer called again?”, James says.
“Thor?” I say.
“Yes, that’s it. Sor” says James.
“Okay, go and see what your brother is up to!”
James run into Hugh and declares, “It’s Sor!”
“No it’s not you little idiot. It’s THOR,” says Hugh, simultaneously sniffing the air with withering disdain. “Have you done a poo?”
Then it is time for presents, cards and breakfast al fresco in a lovely Albaicin market square.
Later in the morning Hugh expresses precocious delight that some of his generous relatives have opted to send him cash for his birthday and warns us off any plans to snaffle it away into his building society account.
“I’m getting a phone,” he tells us before we head out for a sushi lunch, washed down with colourful cocktails.
The maki are magnificent and Hugh laps up the positive comments about his choice of eatery.
Being in control has always been very important to him. When we get to Granada’s brilliant science park later in the afternoon, he immediately assumes charge of his two four-year-old companions, assigning them water-carrying duties.
Even when the younger boys get fed up with taking orders and run off to go on a climbing frame, he still acts the boss, joining them and declaring, “okay, time for a break guys.”
It’s been a near perfect day but still it comes as a relief to hear this most demanding of critics declare himself satisfied with celebrations that concluded with cake and candles in the Science Park’s cafe.
“I’m feeling sad because it’s nearly over,” he says sleepily.
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