My boys are becoming men. I cannot ignore it any more. That dark smudge above their top lips really isn't dirt. The smell that sits in the front room isn't something to do with the cat. The voices wobbling are not to do with emotion, or colds.
They are changing beasts, and I can't stop it.
When they were little, I wished the time away. It was just all so exhausting. I wanted to have a proper conversation with them, to talk about - well, anything really - just so long as it didn't involve barking orders at them to "STAY ON THE PAVEMENT!" or "NO! YOU CAN'T HAVE IT!" And now I have it - that ability to talk to them about anything at all. Their openness is incredible, their appetite for knowledge astounding; their young memories like sponges, or mashed potato, sopping up any crumb they find remotely interesting.
In recent times, we have talked about saving the world, saving whales, saving money, saving water; we have discussed Scottish independence. We have also talked about marriage (lots), relationships, friends, cooking, cars...I won't go on, because even I can see that I'm being boring.
The point is, we talk. And it's a two way thing. And yet - I can see it's all about to disappear down the razor-blade of life. My 13 year old is already using way too much Lynx ("What is that burning smell? Oh, it's your armpits.") and, increasingly, feels that all the world is against him. My 11 year old is being pulled along by this rocket-fuelled lump of teenageness, and is fast approaching the Lynx stage of doom. So I know that, in about six months, our fairly random but always delightful discussions will be replaced by grunts, refusals, constant eating and - horror of horrors - wet dreams.
I feel a bit sick.
I'm having to be a bit stiff upper lipped about the whole sexual thing. A bit, come on now Lottie, you can do it, it's a perfectly natural thing - your sons are just turning into men. That's all. It was bound to happen.
But knowing that your little boys are going to turn into sexual beings is not the same as being confronted by their PUBIC HAIR in the bathroom. Or their pricked up (sorry) interest in girls. Or their PUBIC HAIR (did I mention this?) - which is having a big effect on me. As a single parent, there's no one to share the horror with. I can't ask their father to have a 'talk' with them because a) I'm not talking to him and b) he wouldn't do it anyway because he's an arse.
PUBIC HAIR! (sorry)
But luckily, the boys are remarkably at ease with it all. Their sex education at school (PSHEFHGGGH or some other random collection of letters) has been magnificent and they treat each newly appearing thing as a completely expected and almost welcome badge of honour. This is a huge change from when I was that age. Aged 12 and still clothed in pinafore dresses, I remember being horrified when I saw blood in my knickers, thinking that I'd cut myself.
My mum's response was to say "Congratulations Lottie! You're a woman now!" and she cracked open a bottle of sweet Martini. We had a glass each - with ice and lemon - and I felt an awful lot better after that.
So, the bottom line is this. They are prepared. I am not. But I refuse to be cowed by it, this metamorphosis of my two little boys, and I will learn to embrace their new independence, smelliness, sleepiness and ingratitude.
And, if ever I'm struggling with the new testosterone zone, I've got a MAHOOSIVE bottle of sweet Martini in the cupboard with my name all over it.