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I can't be part of the biggest adventure of my son's life

THE letter landed on the mat in the hall. A small, cream envelope with a tiny love heart and my son's name on it.

Ah, hold on, I thought. He's just turned 12. I mean, just. And some hussy had her eye on him already!

Then I realised I should have expected it. Nature doesn't hang around. These gorgeous spring days there's always a new flower bursting out of the ground where I buried a bulb in the dark days before the Big Freeze.

My lovely 12-year-old has popped out of the ground too with blonde hair and blue eyes and it really wasn't that surprising that someone wanted to pick him.

So I put the letter standing obviously behind a lamp on the hall table and said nothing. Then I forgot about it and when I remembered a few days later and told my son about it, the letter had disappeared.

I tore the place apart looking for that letter. I knew there were a few girls in his school he liked. What if it was from one of them and he never found out?

He likes girls. I was making his sandwiches early one morning a year or so ago and asked him, casually, if he'd like to go to a mixed or single-sex secondary school.

"Mixed," he said. "It doesn't really matter when you're in primary school. But when I'm 13 I'll have the organs of a man."

I had to find a private place to collapse laughing. But the comment just showed his innocence. He'd had a sex education talk in school and he was only saying what was logical -- though what the mothers of the girls might tell him to do with his "organs" was another story.

So he kept looking for that letter and he finally found it stuffed into the phone book. He ripped it open, shouted out and punched the air.

Then he said the letter was "very private" and ran upstairs. Excluding me pretty much for the first time.

Mixed emotions. I was happy for him but sad, too. We are so close and yet I can't be part of the biggest adventure of his life, which will be love. Somewhere out there are the young girls who will be bigger figures in his life than I will be. They could be crazy, hurtful, selfish. They could destroy his life. Then again, they could be lovely. And I hope there will be one who is particularly lovely and that he makes her his life partner. That she replaces me.

All I can do to make this happen is to hang on to my relationship with his father and keep the family together as best I can. And shower my son with as much love as possible in the brief period that we're under one roof.

I'm showering all this love into him so he can shower it on his own family. I can't expect it back.

It's a tough job, this mothering, and about to get much, much tougher.

He came downstairs again, letter in hand. "It's a hoax," he said. "It wasn't posted, it arrived in the letter-box. She doesn't know where I live and doesn't live near me."

He showed it to me. It was clearly a hoax. It was meant to be a love letter from a girl in the class I knew he fancied, but it was written in several different types of handwriting. I remember carrying out the same hoaxes myself.

I was gutted for him. I was coming around to him having his bit of romance. And I didn't want him to be disappointed.

So I was a bit worried when I climbed the stairs that night to turn off his light.



worried

He wasn't reading, as he usually is, but just lying in bed, his window open to let in the spring air. I was more worried still.

But when I leaned down to give him a kiss I realised he was beaming. I gave him a very tight hug and then we both squeezed ourselves with excitement.

We said nothing, but we both knew, in our different ways, that it's starting and it's all ahead of him.

Decades of sex, decades of love. The biggest adventure of his life, and I've sent him on his way.