Below are some interpretations/quotes pulled from
songmeanings.com, that more or less lean towards my understanding of the song’s lyric.
‘This is about a father who has ran away from his child and mother because he isnt ready for the responsibility of a child but he felt he had to return, something was drawing him back. He "never even asked his name" means that he didnt care for the child hence "never never never again", but as I said something has drawn him back "all too soon i did return just like a moth to a flame". He regrets leaving the child, ("see how words as old as sin,Fit me like a glove") because he loves him now ("Although you're only three, sonny boy You're - you're mine") and would do anything to protect it. Maybe the mother has died, that would explain "your mother she just never knew", he felt he had to return but obviously she wasnt there to see him love the child. "I did my best for her" suggests that he couldnt stay when the child was born, he tried his best but couldnt. This is my interpretation anyway, I may be wrong but I certainly don't think its about child molestation.’
‘..... upon reading the lyrics on the sleeve of the 1984 'The Smiths' vinyl, which very interestingly states instead of 'I once had a child and it saved my life, but I never even asked his name', as he says on the album, reads 'I once had a child, it saved my life but whom I never even gave a name'. This suggests a completely different scenario and that the song relates to a child who has been born unto him and has been taken from him or that he gave away, rather than the tenuous suggestions that the song is about child abuse and the like.
This of course is based on my assumption that the lyric sheet is printed with the lyrics that Morrissey provides before recording, and he may have altered lyrics or just said what came naturally when recording his vocals for the track.
Nevertheless the difference between the written lyrics and what is actually said is very thought provoking, especially on such a poignant line.’
Somethings to consider there.
I also think the ‘Sonny Boy’ lines
could simply be the father singing a song to his child. That the child is not actually three years old, or being told to climb upon anyone’s knee.
Basically, Father returns to his child that he deserted, why he returned? maybe the mother passed away? and now she’ll never know how much he (the father) does love the child, a child that saved his life from being just a beggar man that nobody really loved in those years he was away, escaping from his responsibility?
And then ....
Where did a song like 'Hand That Rocks The Cradle' come from?
"Well, that comes from a relationship I had that didn't really involve romance. So if we're talking about romance, well, I don't really know that much about it. But in other things, I'm quite capable of making an observation."
- Morrissey, Melody Maker, 16 March 1985
So that doesn’t help mine or anyone’s interpretation much.