Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea
Silver buckles on his knee
He’ll come back and marry me
Bonny Bobby Shaftoe
Bobby Shaftoe bright and fair
Combing down his yellow hair
He’s my own for ever more
Bonny Bobby Shaftoe
Now I see it written down it seems weirder than ever.
I sing this song to Snooks, bouncing him high on my knee to match the jaunty seafaring pace and the song seems to suit him. He does have yellow hair and is undoubtedly bonny.
But I am also reminded of the great moment in Friends when Monica and Chandler are watching the birth of the baby they plan to adopt and as it comes forth into the world and Monica sees that it is a boy, she shouts, “I am going to love you so much no woman will ever be good enough for you!”
Yes, we have all met one of those grown up boys in our time, haven’t we girls, and we all know those mums didn’t do them any favours.
So I find that when I sing ‘he’s my own for ever more’, I lose a bit of the jauntiness and become more sheepish, mumbling the line in the hope that neither he, nor anyone else who might be listening, thinks I mean it.
Snooks is handsome. I know you think I am biased and I surely am, but as well as that, I am constantly stopped by people in the street, in shops and even at the new playgroup we have joined to be told how extraordinarily handsome he is. One kind lady yesterday simply stared, for a little too long, and then remarked that he was going to grow up to be a stunning young man. Good heavens! Our little Snookie. He has been likened to Russell Crowe and Val Kilmer (I kid you not) and inspired a shop assistant in one of the more upmarket high street baby stores to call their marketing department and insist he be added to their list of potential models. We are still waiting for his big break.
I have learned to smile graciously in response to these most delightful compliments, rather than try the false modesty thing - “Oh no, not really, you’re being kind, his hair is a bit mad… etc” and also to brace for the moment when their face falls and they say, engaging mouth before brain, “He’s nothing like you.”
I have also learned to spot the next thought as it passes through their mind, but which they usually refrain from voicing, which is, “I wouldn’t mind meeting his father.”
In fact Snooks, like all babies, has moments when he looks a bit like everyone. His immediate impression is definitely of the Engineer and side by side, particularly when I unconsciously dress Snooks in the same colours that his dad left in that morning, they look hilariously alike. Then he smiles and I see my own baby mouth smiling up at me, which makes me want to kiss him. I assume this Narcissism is common amongst parents and in fact one of the reasons we instinctively love and protect our children so much. Or maybe it’s just me.
Then when his back is turned to me and his little head is tipped forward in concentration, the roundness of the back of his head, his dinky little ears and slight neck are so my father. Then his diminutive size and general all round cuteness is reminiscent of one of his antipodean uncles at the same age.
In one photo, taken with the timer on Christmas Day as we left for morning Mass, we three rather stiffly posed outside the front door in our Sunday best staring fixedly at the camera waiting for the red light to stop flashing, he could for all the world be my older brother, circa 1963.
So what with all that handsomeness and all that familiarity, it’s hard not to adore him and sing songs about being mine forever more.
And surely that all-consuming love would be just the same if he were a little girl (as sometimes, oddly, I dream that he is) and is undoubtedly what he needs from me just now. The time to let him go will come.
Of course he may lose his good looks as he gets older, break his nose on the rugby pitch, develop adolescent chipmunk teeth, dye his lovely silky blonde hair black and paint his fingernails to match.
Anyway, I figure that so long as I cut it out by the time he reaches puberty we should be ok.
He’ll probably be a bit over Bonny Bobby Shaftoe by then.