Two years ago I started writing this weekly column as a celebration of the state of childhood with all its beauty, intrigue, and startling odours. I promised myself I’d stop before my kids were old enough to be embarrassed by it. And so now – as the world’s parents say a billion times a day at the swings in the park – I think it’s a good time to stop and let someone else have a turn.
Our amazing eldest child is six years old. When this column started, he sincerely believed he was Batman. Now he has reached the age of reason and his brilliant insights are becoming revelatory of him as an individual, rather than of the condition of infancy in its universality. This is a magical and a fragile time; it belongs to him alone and isn’t mine to redistill and reinterpret.
Likewise for our three-year-old, who hadn’t grown all his milk teeth when I started, but who is now a lovely handsome charmer, made entirely of imagination and dynamite, who has audaciously reinvented the office of middle child as a leadership role.
And likewise for our beautiful, smiling baby daughter, who wasn’t even under construction when this column began but who, as I write, is crawling across the kitchen floor, busy on youth’s eternal quest to find biscuits to ingest and electrical sockets to stick youth’s fingers into.
My wife and I are incredibly lucky to have such kids. While writing this column I have received hundreds of kind and funny messages from parents and grandparents who feel similarly about the children in their lives. Contrary to the negativity on display in some of the media, we are a society that loves its children and does not consider them doomed, feral or fallen. If your letters and emails are anything to go by then children unite us in hope, and the way we bring up our kids says more about us than the jobs we do, the beliefs we hold, or the way we vote.
Please let me thank a few people. My wife, as 88 episodes of this column have proved, is wiser, calmer and wildly more physically attractive than me. While I’ve been showboating about parenting, she has been quietly and brilliantly doing it, and working at the same time. She has been wonderfully assisted by our nanny, Danielle, who is the kindest, gentlest, most dedicated person anyone could hope to meet. I also want to thank my brother, Alex, for being a rock. It has been famous chuckling over the stories in these columns with him – and a lot of the best jokes were his. Thanks also to my mum and dad, who still show me and my brother, at 30-something years, the same unselfish kindness they showed us when we 30-something months. It is a measure of how great they are that as a parent I hope to be just like them.
Thank you to my editors at The Guardian, a superb and important newspaper that I’ve been very proud to write for. I admire their free spirit in affording a novelist this space on their pages. And I want to thank you, the regular readers of this column. I have loved all your warm and funny messages. Let me leave you with a parenting tip from top childcare expert Cormac McCarthy, in ‘The Road’: “He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.”
Finally I want to thank my children. Kids: they give me 650 words in this column, which is either a billion words too few or 647 words too many to say I love you. Maybe one day you will find these columns curled in the bottom of some drawer. If that happens, I hope they will make you laugh. I love it so much when you laugh.