This week my baby celebrates his 29th birthday. On the 4th of June my first born will walk down the aisle with his beautiful bride Maria. All parents will recognise the feeling when I say "well now we can relax a little"
Being a parent, one of the most important jobs in the world, and no manual to help us get it right. Honestly, I had so many days when I questioned my abilities as a parent. Today I feel I can finally say "I think I did okay".
Two boys born 16 months apart, same parents, same upbringing....but oh so different in so many ways.
One came into the world, late, a caesar, and pushing the boundries from his first breath..and I suspect he will still be pushing the boundaries when he's an old man. The other glided quietly into the world, a few days early.....and charmed everyone who crossed his path. To this day one is always on time or early, the other always late.
One hated going to bed and would fight sleep ...and still does. The other would put himself to bed the moment he felt tired.
From day one we tried to expose them to a variety of experiences. They were christened Anglicans, went to a Baptist Sunday School, a few years at a state co-ed school and then an all boys Catholic secondary school. One is an atheist, the other a believer.
One hated school and despite being very bright left in his final year without sitting exams. The other struggled with dyslexia, loved school and completed his education. Both refused to go to university. One went into the purchasing department of an Auckland hotel and by the time he was twenty was chief purchasing officer. The other worked washing cars to earn money to go to film school...where he achieved A+'s and was employed by a TV Production company.
About now I was thinking, we are doing okay, the boys are settled and on their career paths. But no.....parenting isn't that easy. There were a few surprises ahead of us.
Back to their childhood. My kids ate in Maccas as often as they ate in restaurants, both ethnic and hotel lobby restaurants. Even when they were toddlers, Sunday evenings were spent dining in a Chinese restaurant with friends. They could eat with chopsticks from about 2 years of age. Today, given a choice, they will choose Yum Cha over a MacDonalds when eating out.
When other parents were complaining about The Simpsons, I encouraged our boys to watch it. Actually they didn't need encouragement, Bart was huge in our house. Despite being a cartoon The Simpsons always contained a message...everything from sibling rivalry to being popular in school.
As teenagers they watched the usual teenage soap operas.... and we watched with them. Again another learning opportunity as those shows tackle the issues uppermost in their teenage angst years. Being gay,first kisses, sex, teenage pregnancy, abortion. Whether you are a liberal or a conservative, teaching your child to recognise social engineering is a gift to them.
Because film is one of my passions they went to as many foreign films as Hollywood blockbusters. They could name the director of a movie before the could name the actors. Their first foreign film was My Father's Glory. ....and as much as I want them to love foreign films they'd both rather watch a Hollywood blockbuster.
I taught them about wine but neither drink wine. One prefers Rum, the other Bourbon..neither which we kept in our liquor cabinet.
Having a musician as their father meant they were exposed to all styles of music. One studied violin but is now a drummer, the other studied piano and flute and no longer plays an instrument. As toddlers they would chose Earl Klugh over Anne Murray . Now one is into garage punk the other drum and base.
One has a tiny discreet tattoo and had a couple of piercings (tongue and eyebrow). The piercings have closed over now. The other has 3 tattoos, all hidden beneath his shirt line. He has pierced ears...but I said no to the big holes in the ears. Some times you have to choose your battles.
We read to them from the day they were born...everything from Richard Scarry and Roald Dahl to Jack London. Now all their reading is done on the internet and they read more non fiction than fiction. But I still remember the thrill I felt the first time one of them decided to spend his birthday money on books.
They both did gymnastics and swim club. One moved on to water polo, the other basketball and rugby union.
One experimented with drugs, the other didn't. As hard as we fought against the drugs the worse they became. In the end we stepped back and let him reach rock bottom and were there to pick up the pieces and help him rebuild his life...and one day he apologised for the stress he had put us through.
Both gave up their career paths and tried other work options. One travelled and spent 5 years doing trapeze at Club Med,came home, worked in a series of dead end jobs until he finally landed a film editing job with an advertising company, and it was a joy to my ears to hear him say "I really love my job". The other travelled for a few months, then came home and went back to school to study sound engineering. He hasn't yet found his niche in the world but I have every faith he will. For now he has a well paid job with responsibilities but I know at some point he will work where his passion is - music.
One brought a series of girls home, the other brought only one girl home..and they dated for some months before he introduced her to us. Both are happily settled in relationships with lovely young women.
We taught them to make their own school lunches at 12, do their own laundry at 15. They learnt to cook by spending time in the kitchen with me. Both are great cooks. One cooks Asian style, the other Mediterranean. We taught them budgeting by giving them a monthly allowance which included buying their own clothes.
I'm sorry to say one of them has seen the inside of a police cell. I don't know what he was thinking when he sent off an email to a multi national telecommunications company complaining about their internet speed and threatening to blow up their head office. Having a car load of police knock on your door with a search warrant to look for explosives is not something I ever want to experience again. Fortunately New Zealand, where we were living at the time, has a Diversion scheme and after going through the court system he does not have a criminal record.
A friend who is a child phsycologist refused to have a dishwasher in his house. He said doing the dishes with your child is a really good talking opportunity. Dishes have always been a man's job in our house. Our family celebrations always end with the boys and their father in the kitchen stacking the dishwasher and chatting...and I love they help without being asked.
Our family is not perfect. Is any family? As parents we do the best we can. We all set out to raise our children to become good citizens. We teach them right from wrong, to respect others and be true to themselves. ...and we love them unconditionally. What they do with those lessons is their decision. We can only hope they make the right decisions and choices.
I am enormously proud of the men my boys have become.
I love the caring they show their partners.
I love they ring or Skype me just to say hi.
I love they still greet their Dad with a hug and kiss.
I love when they discuss with me a Malaysian curry or a Creme Anglaise.
I love they have friends from different cultures.
I love they don't consider their gay friends to be any different from their straight friends.
I love their senses of humour.
I love spending time with them.
I love my boys men.