I saw an interview with a celebrity couple (now divorced) where the woman referred to ‘my children’ and quickly changed it to ‘our children,’ touching her husband’s knee with an embarrassed laugh.
But was she right the first time?
Looking back on my own story, I see that the Queen would switch between my son, your son and our son depending on circumstances. In fact, you could draw a rough timeline based on the possessive pronoun she favoured.
In the beginning, he was our son. (Ah, those were the days.) When the Queen felt overworked and annoyed with me he became your son, but this was occasional. The default setting for us both was our son.
The Queen and I had agreed to be equal partners in our marriage. When she got a full time job, I did most of the small child stuff because I worked from home. The result? I loved it, she hated it. When the boy fell down in the playground he would cry ‘Daddy’ before ‘Mummy.’ When he drew a picture he would show me before her, once walking right past her with his drawing. My son began to creep into her conversation. We had arguments where I reminded her that he was my son too.
‘He’s my son first!’ she raged. ‘I’m his mother!’
‘I thought we were equal partners?’ I argued.
‘Equality is supposed to make my life better, not yours! You tricked me, you bastard—making me believe in equality, telling me you’d support my career and getting me out of the house so that Sammy would end up loving you more than me! Well, he’s my son and I want him back!’
Following the divorce, I went through a phase of ‘You want him? Fine, you have him. I’m outta here!’ Now a working single mother, the Queen was shocked at the time and energy it took and my son was quickly replaced with your son as her default setting. The pendulum had swung to the other side.
Some years later we were sitting in the garden of her house drinking a glass of white wine and being civilised. We watched Sammy playing on the swing and the Queen asked if she could ask me something. I said she could on the understanding that I could choose not to answer. She accepted those terms and I told her to go ahead.
‘Why do you only refer to our son by his name?’ she said. ‘I can’t remember the last time you called him your son.’
I was tempted to give her the usual waffle about us not owning our children, They Are Their Own Person and all that smart uselessness. But it was an honest question and it deserved an honest answer.
‘Because I’ve let go my claim on him,’ I said.
‘You don’t have to do that.’
‘Yes I do, otherwise we would still be at war. I know the day is coming when you will meet a man you believe can make you happy. If I’m lucky, he will live in this country. If I’m not, you will go to wherever he is and you will take the boy with you. It’s only a matter of time.’
‘Wouldn’t you fight me?’
‘If you choose some asshole I don’t trust, then I would, yes.’
‘I’m glad to hear it.’
‘But your track record is pretty good, my dear. So far the men you’ve picked have been decent guys—present company included. I don’t believe you would go for a man who would put the boy at risk.’
‘Don’t call him “the boy.” He’s your son. He’s your son.’
She was trying not to cry. I watched the boy swing on the swing and I left these thoughts unsaid:
‘How dare you, woman. We went to war and you won. You got what you wanted. Your claim ‘He’s my son first’ was both your battlecry and the first line of the rewritten constitution—which was not based on any kind of equality. Have you any notion what I went through to finally accept that? To be able to live with it? And now you shed tears because you don’t like the way my acceptance sounds? God damn you, woman. God damn you.’
Sammy jumped off the swing and came running over to us. ‘Mummy, you’re crying,’ he said.
‘Yes, darling,’ said the Queen.
‘Daddy and I were just talking about how he calls you Sammy rather than his son and I found it sad.’
‘But I am his son,’ said Sammy. He turned to me. ‘And you’re my daddy!’
‘Yes, I am,’ I said.
‘Well, that’s all settled then,’ said the boy and he ran into the house.