MY mum rang me at work last week with a grim warning: “I’ve been watching the news. The roads are really icy so drive carefully and make sure you ring me when you get home.”
There are two points I’d like to make about this particular phone call: (1), I’ll be half a century old in April. (2) I’m employed as a newspaper editor, so I’m paid to know what’s in the news.
My mum’s 80 and she still treats me as though I’m a six-year-old. If I happen to mention that I’m appearing on television, or presenting something on stage, she never fails to tell me to wear a white shirt.
“You can’t beat a white shirt for looking smart,” she says, before adding: “And don’t forget to do your top button up.”
She was brought up in London and supports Arsenal, so I took her to see the Gunners play Sunderland at the weekend. Just before I set off to pick her up, she rang to tell me to wear a vest, gloves, scarf and a hat. “It’s absolutely freezing,” she said. “‘I’ve made you a flask of hot chocolate.”
I brought my own woolly hat, scarf and a pair of gloves but she still produced spares, along with the hot chocolate at half-time, just in case I needed them.
Thankfully, it’s quite clear that this refusal to let go is not confined to my mum. It’s common among parents the world over.
After I’d sent a tweet on the internet about my mum’s phone call, I was inundated with replies from grown-ups about similar experiences: Doreen Wilson got in touch all the way from Ottawa, in Canada, to say: “My mom once told me the kettle had just boiled and that I should be careful not to burn myself. I’m 32 and wasn’t even in the kitchen at the time.”
Kat Nagel tweeted from Rochester, New York: “Mom reminded me to wear a raincoat every time it rained even though I lived 1,000 miles away.”
Neil O’Connor, from York, had an urgent phone call from his mum to tell him she’d heard that someone was driving the wrong way down the A1 and to take extra care.
London lorry driver Darren Trapps, who looks at least 30 on his Twitter photograph, reported that his mum always tells him that the water’s hot in the bath – then shouts upstairs to check that he’s okay when he’s relaxing ten minutes later.
This is clearly mainly a “mum phenomenon”, but not exclusively.
Dads can be just as bad.
Minutes after I’d received the road warning phone call from my mum, colleague Craig Stoddart had a call from his dad, telling him to be careful because “the roads are like bloody glass”.
Craig is 33, holds down a responsible job, drives a car, has his own place, and has even been known to vote once or twice.
But none of us should complain really, should we? Mums and dads make such phone calls because they can’t help it. They care and they worry, and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that.
Deep down we’re all acutely aware that one day we won’t be getting those phone calls any more – so long may they continue.
THE THINGS MUMS SAY
WE’D just settled into our seats at the Stadium of Light, surrounded by die-hard Sunderland supporters in red and white striped shirts, when my Mum telephoned my brother and shouted: “Hello son, we’re at the ground – up the Gunners!”
When I shushed her, she replied: “Oh, aren’t we in the Arsenal end?”
SUNDERLAND’S nickname is the Black Cats so a mascot in a big black cat costume was walking round the pitch before the game.
“Oh, look,” said my mum, “it’s H’angus the monkey!”
For the uninitiated, H’Angus is Hartlepool United’s mascot and looks nothing like a cat.
THE THINGS KIDS SAY
JOHN Rooke, of Hartlepool, walked into the room to find four-year-old son Leo drawing all over his leg with a black marker pen.
Asked what he was doing, Leo said: “I want to look like Uncle Tony.”
Uncle Tony has a few tattoos on his leg.