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Richard's Mum

Children's Story
The prodigal son's father could equally have been his mother, since mothers too are never quite what their offspring want!

This is a story about Richard, who resents his mother's discipline and breaks out against it, just as the prodigal son broke out against his father.

Richard was about seven or eight when he first realised his Mum wasn't perfect. It came as a great shock to Richard, for before that, he had assumed his Mum knew everything and was always right.

Richard's teacher had asked the class: "Who thinks their Mum will run in the Mums' race at Sports Day?" and a whole class of hands had shot up, including Richard's. But when he'd gone home and excitedly told his Mum about the race, she'd laughed and said: "No thanks! My running days are long gone!" And Richard had suddenly realised that at thiry-something his Mum was old, and was probably wearing out already.

After that, Richard began to notice more and more little faults in his Mum. For instance, his friend John's mother always kept chocolate biscuits in the tin at home, and all John's friends were allowed to dive in whenever they felt like it. And Sarah's Mum always held a party for Sarah's birthday each year, and never moaned about the mess on the carpet afterwards. And Damien's Mum let Damien stay up really late and watch 15-rated films on television, and even get out horror videos from time to time.

Richard's Mum didn't do any of those things. What's more, she made Richard clean his teeth every day, and tidy his room from time to time. And she always seemed to know exactly what he was watching on television, even when she was miles away in the kitchen.

The more Richard looked and compared his Mum with other people's Mums, the more he found to criticise in his mother. In the end, he decided to gently suggest some changes.

He wrote a list to his mother. It took a long time, because he couldn't write very fast, and his writing was so big it kept filling up all the paper. But he managed it at last. He was a polite boy, so he didn't say; "I want", he headed the list with: Things I would like, if possible.

Top of the list came more pocket money, because he only got 50p and most of his friends got a pound, and that didn't seem fair. Then there was staying up late to watch some good films on television, because all the PG films were so naf. Then came having friends round whenever he wanted, and having crisps and biscuits and Coke always available in the house. The list was quite long, and ended with things like: his mother wearing smarter clothes, like Samantha's mother. And getting thinner, like Max's mother. And his mother not meeting him right outside the school gate every evening, but waiting down the road a little way, because that would be really cool.

When Richard gave the list to his mother, she didn't say much, but her face looked a bit kind of sad, especially when she got to the end of the list. And it didn't seem to make much difference in Richard's life. Nothing changed. His pocket money didn't increase, and he still went to bed every night at the same time, and his mother still waited for him at the school gate.

Richard got more and more fed up. After all, he'd asked politely, the least he could have expected was a reply.

One day, he asked his mother whether he could go on his bike with his friends, over to the old disused railway station. She said: "No. It's too dangerous. I don't want you going there." Richard was so disappointed he stuck out his lower lip in rebellion and went anyway. After all, his friends were all allowed to go, so why shouldn't he? He decided never to ask his mother again, because the answer was always the same and it wasn't worth the effort. From now on, he'd do what he wanted, and never mind the consequences.

They had a great morning at the old station, playing on the tracks, climbing on the roof of the old building, running in and out through dilapidated doors, and playing hide-and-seek. There were loads of brilliant places to hide. Richard squeezed behind an old cupboard without a door in the waiting room, and laughed to himself as he heard his friends clambering about on the roof, and running round looking for him.

Then suddenly there was a terrible sound like a huge explosion, and the whole building shook, and there was a crashing all round Richard, who found himself choking with dust. Huge pieces of timber smashed down, and Richard thought it was probably an earthquake, for the whole building seemed to be collapsing. Then he felt a searing pain in his leg, and that was the last he remembered.

When he woke, he was in a strange room with lots of figures in white coats moving silently around. Richard was terrified. He wondered whether he'd died and was in heaven. He longed for his mother with an enormous yearning. He began to cry quietly, and sobbed: "Mum! Oh Mum, where are you? Please come, please come."

A white-coated figure came and peered at him and mumbled something about hospital and then went away again. Richard couldn't stop crying. He was so frightened, and his leg hurt so much, and he felt kind of weird, sort of spaced out, and not really knowing what was happening.

Then out of the corner of his eye he noticed the door quietly open, and a figure slipped in. In an instant Richard's Mum was beside him, cuddling him in her arms, and stroking his forehead in that way she always did. She didn't say anything, just smiled. But Richard felt an enormous wave of love wash over him. His tears dried and he relaxed and fell asleep again.

He kept waking for a few moments, then dropping off to sleep again. Every time he woke, his Mum was there, and he knew everything was all right.

It took a long time for Richard to get better and for his leg to mend, but his Mum was always around somewhere. When he was nearly better, she used to go away for short periods, but he always knew she'd come back.

And he always knew he'd never swap his Mum for anyone else in the whole world.
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