IT might not always be easy along the way but one of life’s great pleasures is seeing your children develop into adults.

And I have to say that it’s also a joy to see their friends go on the growing up journey with them.

I love the fact that our children, now ranging from 27 to 20, still have a circle of close friends they’ve known since primary school. Having first got to know them as shy little boys and girls, they are now young men and women, making their way in the world, and it’s no exaggeration to say they’re like an extended family.

They might go away to university or to pursue careers but they still come back to our village to be reunited as often as possible and it’s lovely to see (even if they do drink all my beer whenever they come round).

We have a favourite picture of our daughter, Hannah, with her childhood friends, Juliette and Charlotte, when they were sweet little nativity angels with tinsel in their hair. Hannah and Juliette are now flat-mates, working in London, while Charlotte also lives in the capital and is still a good friend.

And then there’s Ben. Ben has been our Jack’s friend for as long as either of them can remember. They clicked in the first week of primary school and, nearly 20 years down the line, they’re still great mates and I have little doubt that will be the case for the rest of their lives.

I once wrote a column about Ben and Jack running out together for football training on a Saturday morning. It was soon after Jack’s tenth birthday and he was wearing his present - a new Arsenal shirt with his name on the back in big white letters: BARRON.

Ben was just as proud to be wearing his new Manchester United shirt, and he had GIGGS on the back.

“I see your Ben’s Ryan Giggs,” I said to his Mum as we watched them playing.

“Yeah, but he took an awful lot of talking round,” she said. “He wanted to be Van Nistelrooy and it’s a pound a letter!”

That was 13 years ago but it still makes me smile and Ben has grown into a fine young man, despite the rather regrettable fact that he still supports Manchester United.

He was round our house recently, soon after his 23rd birthday. This time, instead of a football shirt, his present was to be a posh new suit.

Over a beer in the garden, he told me how he was trying on a suit in a shop fitting room when there was a knock on the door and, to his horror, his mum shouted: “Are you alright in there, Ben?”

“I’m 23 – what did she think was going to happen to me?” he groaned.

That’s the thing about having kids. They might grow up to be adults - but they never stop being your little cherubs, do they?


THANK you to Lynn Wright, of Darlington, for letting me tell the following story about her three-year-old grand-daughter Autumn.

Lynn had bought Autumn a present and was looking forward to giving it to her.

With the surprise hidden behind her back, Lynn said to Autumn: “Guess what Grandma’s got?”

Without a second’s hesitation, Autumn provided the answer: “Wrinkles.”

FOLLOWING a talk to Staindrop Over-60s Club the other night, a member who asked only to be identified as Marion told me this little story from way back about her daughter Susan.

The family were in the car and Susan, just five at the time, suddenly blurted out: “I know what you and Dad do.”

Marion looked at her husband and he glanced back. A couple of seconds passed before she plucked up the courage to ask: “What do we do?”

“K and K,” replied the little girl, knowingly.

Marion braced herself and asked: “K and K? What’s K and K?”

“You kiss and cuddle, don’t you!” said Susan.