Family unity is definitely missing as a string of expletives signals the Nearly-Beloved’s arrival home. I go to investigate and find him hopping on one leg. ‘Get down here sonny Jim!’ he yells. ‘I nearly broke my neck, tripping over your school bag.’ But alas, he is talking into a void. That boat has already sailed, leaving behind an empty Pot Noodle carton and a sink full of mouldering mugs. That’s Grunting Teen’s idea of clearing out his room in return for a ride with Mum’s Taxis.
‘He’s not here,’ I say, thankful for one battle less to contend with. ‘I dropped him off to do some revision.’ The Nearly-Beloved snorts. ‘Revision? As if! You’re such a pushover.’ I scowl back at him, knowing he’s right but annoyed at his directness. You see, Grunting Teen has virtually moved in with Polly Pocket, his petite ‘friend’, who fits neatly under his armpit and is a permanent fixture there. Revision or not, he’s been spending more time at Polly’s house than he has at ours. Maybe it’s because Polly’s parents don’t grill him about his homework or obsess about waterproof footwear?
At the moment there seem to be almost daily stand-offs between the alpha males in my life. All that father-son shouting and morning chorus of ‘Put your coat on. It’s raining!’ is getting somewhat repetitive. I suppose I should be grateful that currently we all exist in a different orbit. As one comes in, another goes out. Making up for all that time in lockdown.
So why do I feel a sudden nostalgia for cosy evenings together watching Netflix, for shared lunches and companionable walks, where just being outdoors was bonding? I mean, why would Grunting Teen want to hang out with his mum now? Why would the Nearly-Beloved choose to stay in with me, having already crammed ten years of marriage into sixteen months? As it is, he’s off to tennis. Doesn’t want to eat the meal I’ve lovingly prepared for him and my absent son.
I stomp upstairs. At least I can ring Delightful Daughter for a moan. But now she’s on maternity leave, she’s making the most of her last weeks of freedom. She’s too busy to talk and booked up for the foreseeable future. Great! It feels like we are all spiralling in different directions. All doing our ‘own thing’. There’s a sense of discord. We’re all focussing on individual desires. No sense of family unity any more. And there’s no point trying the son in Amsterdam…
But just then my mobile pings with a message from him. He’s recommending we all watch a new mini-series. In Korean. With subtitles. No way! Set in Korea? The Nearly-Beloved? Reading subtitles? Grunting Teen? I rather think not.
I’m getting hungry now. So, I go downstairs to eat the casserole. On my own. Then the door opens and the Nearly-Beloved puts his head sheepishly round it.
‘Any chance of some food? Tennis has been cancelled.’
I sigh and dish up.
We’re just tucking in when a tornado rattles the house and Grunting Teen blasts in.
‘I’m starvin’,’ he announces.
It turns out that today Polly is actually revising and doesn’t want any distractions. So, I set out another plate and we enjoy a surprisingly civilised meal together. There are no arguments and the conversation flows. Then Grunting Teen, who, amazingly, has finished all his homework, suggests we watch ‘Squid Game.’ Apparently, it’s the latest must-see.
‘It’s set in Korea, mum. But you’ll like it, anyway. And it’s got subtitles, Dad, so get your specs on.’
Suspending our disbelief, we settle down with a box of the not-to-be-opened-until-Christmas Quality Street. And before long we are hooked. As is Darling Daughter, as well as my Boy Abroad. So, we now have a Squid Game thread running on the joint WhatsApp. Thanks to this mini-series we’ve found a common interest. Family unity is once more restored.