I know you’ve got a lot of questions and thoughts running through your head which you can’t articulate because you’re only five. But I thought I’d try and answer some of them now, so that you know what we were thinking when we made this move.
Because your big sister is verbose and wise beyond her years and sarcastic and thoughtful and belligerent – often all at the same time – she leaves a big trail in her wake, which gives us plenty to deal with.
But with you, we’ve done that classic second child thing of just pulling you along with us, assuming you’ll be ok.
I remember the moment we broke the news to you both that we were moving abroad. Weeks of carefully planted thoughts about the terrible weather in the UK and how nice it would be to explore different parts of the world were about to pay off.
And, as always, you took your cue from your sister. She was excited, so you were too. But you have even less context than she does to help you frame what’s about to happen to you. The biggest change you’ve ever made is from nursery to primary school last autumn.
And you coped with that just fine. But now we’re selling the only house you’ve ever lived in, sent all your things off on a crate on a ship and are about to fly out to reunite as a family after a long and challenging ten weeks apart.
I think back to the moment at Heathrow when you realised Mummy was leaving and your scream still haunts me. My only consolation for the changes next week will bring is that we are at least facing a reunion not a further separation.
And it will be so exciting, even before we get there. You’ve never taken a flight where a meal was included in the cost of the ticket. For years, your battered copy of Amazing Aeroplanes has been promising you the delights of a seat-back TV, and next week, you’re going to experience it for real. I think you might actually pop with excitement.
But I know from the last couple of days that it’s starting to weigh on your mind.
I wasn’t planning to write a post this weekend, but your reaction and behaviour since I came back to Granny’s house to pick you both up a couple of days ago has highlighted a gap that needs filling. Something I’ve overlooked.
You’ve hardly let me out of your sight, for example. There were actual tears last night when I put you to bed; not because you didn’t want to go, but because you didn’t want me to leave your room.
Your voice has dialled down to a whisper, almost as if you’re afraid of what might come out of it. As if admitting that something’s not quite right will give it strength; solidify it.
And I get it, because I feel exactly the same way.
My head is all over the place right now. I poured it all out to your mum on arrival here, and she told me the apprehension was understandable, but that if her ten weeks’ head start had taught her anything, it’s that this is a challenge, but it’s going to be okay.
We’re moving because we want to give you opportunities. To introduce you to new cultures and experiences. To show you what’s possible. What you do with that insight is up to you, and anyone’s guess – and that’s the really exciting part.
One of the very best things about you is also, unsurprisingly, one of the worst: you have the attention span of a wasp with ADD. It’s why your nickname is so appropriate. It takes an almost herculean effort to keep a thought, idea, or instruction in your head for more than seven seconds. This is, according to far more intelligent people than your mother or I, perfectly normal for a five-year-old boy.
But it also means that if you are upset, or worried, or…anything, we can switch your focus like we’re turning off a light.
Missing Mummy? Hey, is that some Lego under the sofa?
Worried about all the changes happening in your world which you’re more than aware of, but not able to articulate? Who wants to play Angry Birds?
Right now the rain that’s been threatening all morning has finally arrived. Typically, we’d just hung a load of washing out. And as I gave you a piggy back over the stone path so you could help me get it all back in again, you said: “Thanks for carrying me, dad.”
No worries; it’s just part of my job description (not that I have a job any more).
Ben Folds nailed this feeling of becoming a father to a son in his song Still Fighting It:
Good morning, son; twenty years from now, maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers.
And I can tell you ‘bout today, and how I picked you up and everything changed.
It packs an even bigger punch now on the thousandth listen than it did when I first heard it, back in those dimly-recalled days before either you or your sister were part of our lives.
Right now, she’s off having her hair cut at a typically underwhelming French hair salon. I asked you if you wanted to go, too, because you’re in even greater need of a mow than she is.
But you said no. You asked if you could go with me back in the UK on Tuesday, the morning of the day we fly out.
I’d like to think it’s because you just want to hang out with me. It could be because you prefer the comfort of the known. But it’s most likely because you know they’ll give you a lollipop if you sit still for just a few minutes.
I have a sneaky feeling that whilst we’re there, you’re going to ask me if you’ll get a lollipop for being good at our new barbers in Doha.
And I will tell you that I have absolutely no idea.
But that I can’t wait to find out.