The boy-child left home earlier this year. Always an independent soul, he has adapted well to living in a flat and seems happy — if not as well-fed as he was at home.
Do I sound like a bad parent if I say I don’t miss him?
To qualify that: I don’t miss the conflict and tension that characterized the months before he moved out. And while I am still quietly celebrating a full fridge, an empty laundry basket and a cheerful offspring, I am a little nostalgic. My child has grown up and our relationship has changed.
I do miss the funny, energetic child who filled my life for 18 years, but celebrate the capable and self-sufficient adult he has become.
Apologies to anyone who has seen these before, but I have been thinking about children and reading since Leanne at Nihongojapango posted some wonderful photos of a little one enjoying his books, and Janet at This, That and The Other Thing wrote a very funny post about her reading addiction.
And of course books are also this week’s Travel Theme at Where’s My Backpack.
When iconic Kiwi chocolate manufacturer Whittakers recently teamed up with newish artisan dairy food manufacturer Lewis Road Creamery to produce chocolate milk, the marriage of these two brands was apparently so successful that demand has massively exceeded supply and a whole marketing campaign has been built around scarcity, rationing and a “black market” in chocolate milk.
Not being in the target demographic, it’s a campaign that would probably have passed me by except that the FaceBook page of my favourite greengrocer/artisan grocer — Boric Food Market — got in on the act. Then the boy-child started talking about it too.
Still not being quite aware of the extent of the shortage, I vaguely started looking for the stuff in Boric and my local supermarket, thinking I’d buy a bottle for the kid so he could tell me if it was worth the hype (and the price).
I still haven’t actually seen it stocked anywhere!
But luckily some lovely artist friends brought me a bottle for the boy while we were working at NZ Sculpture OnShore. It took a few hours before I managed to get it home to him, and I was worried about it spoiling, but — as the pics show — it was fine. Better than fine it seems. I’m told it’s the best chocolate milk he’s ever had. Given that I don’t really think of chocolate milk as a premium product, I’m not quite sure how great an accolade that is. But the demand is high, people are willing to queue for the one-bottle-per-person they’re allowed, and I just noticed someone sold two 750ml bottles on TradeMe (the local eBay) for $32.
Meantime, I had to capture some shots of the moment when the boy child enjoyed his gift.
Never too old for Advent treats!
Here are some other Six Word Saturday posts that I have enjoyed:
So, there’s this family right. Mum, Dad, teenage son.
And they’re having dinner one night when the son casually mentions that time his lips went like, you know, blue.
And the mother, who’s mid-forkful of mac and cheese, goes, “WHAT!!!!”
And the son, who’s spooning food onto his plate goes … “Oh, I didn’t tell you. Yeah, me and (friend who shall remain nameless) decided it would be fun to put blue food colouring in our juice and, well, like my lips went blue; like a Smurf right.”
And the mother, who’s just so relieved that her darling, precious only child hasn’t suffered hypothermia, or taken some terrible drug (not saying that blue food colouring isn’t terrible, just not quite in the same league as Ecstasy or meth, or whatever).
And the kid goes, “yeah, like I told Dad cos he might check my browser history and …”
The mother is confused. “Why would that be a problem?”
“Well” says the son, “a couple of days later I was like, pooing green and like … WOW!”
And the mother is more bewildered.
“So I did a search to find out why it was green.”
“You searched the internet for ‘green shit’?”
“No, I Googled ‘why is my poo green?’ And I told Dad cos I didn’t want him to think I’m like pervy or anything.”
By now, the mother has given up any attempt to eat and is not-very silently weeping with laughter.
“And what did Google say?” She is trying really hard to act as if conversations about unnaturally tinted excrement happen in all families.
“Too much spinach, blue food colouring or intestinal parasites.”
The son has now finished dinner and is nonchalantly loading the dishwasher.
“I knew I hadn’t been eating spinach, and I’m really glad it was the food colouring. It said you treat intestinal parasites with a ‘simple colon cleanse.’ That’s putting stuff up your bum isn’t it?” By now he’s wandering off to plug himself back into his computer.
The serious reflection bit
Afterwards, the mother finds herself thinking about the conversation. She has been a very hands-on mother; parenting solo quite a lot while her partner travels on business. She has answered her son’s questions about sex, Santa Claus and how Grandad got his tractor home from the place he bought it. She has explained blow-jobs and why aeroplanes look like they’re going fast from the ground but don’t feel fast when you’re on them. Sometimes she has felt inadequate to answer the questions and other times she’s been exhausted by the sheer inquisitiveness of her child. But now she reflects on being replaced with Google, and is glad that she has been her son’s “go to” source of information for so long. She will miss the left-field questions that her son has thrown her, and hopes that occasionally he will still come to her for guidance.
Though she has to admit, she’d never have offered blue food colouring as a cause of green poo.
Here are some other posts you may like:
It’s Father’s Day here in New Zealand.
Being particularly averse to anything that reeks of commercialized sentimentalism, the Big T isn’t really into Father’s Day (or birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc).
Being a teenager and loathe to spend money, the boy-child is similarly averse.
Being me, lover of celebration, festivity and family tradition, I thought it would be nice if we at least had breakfast together “as a family”.
It shouldn’t have to be this hard …
The Big T wanted poached eggs and bacon. I don’t eat meat, and the boy-child doesn’t like poached eggs, so eating breakfast “as a family” was always going to be more about timing than content.
Preparing perfect poached eggs, toast (under the grill cos the slices were too thick for the toaster), bacon, fruit and yogurt for me, plus coffee (one long black, one latte) so that they were all ready at the same time is one of those challenges I haven’t totally mastered, but the boy-child agreed to oversee the bacon. So far, so good.
Somehow, for some reason, he also decided to put his finger through the ring at the top of the kitchen tongs. Apparently he’s done this before. Presumably before his hands grew – in that way that teenagers do grow.
His finger got stuck.
At first I thought he was just being silly and laughed.
Then it was obvious that his finger really was stuck.
I suggested dish-washing liquid to help lubricate the finger. It didn’t work. I was still laughing.
Breakfast was getting close and I needed to remove the bacon from the pan – difficult with the tongs attached to my son’s finger.
The Big T suggested oiling the finger. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but we actually debated what sort of oil to use (and decided on toasted sesame oil).
The Big T twisted and pulled; the boy-child screamed. I used a fork to take the bacon out.
The food was ready, but discussion had already turned to which Emergency Clinic we should take him to and how long it would all take.
Reasons to live with an engineer
As I was serving the food (without tongs), the boys went out to the garage. Minutes passed, with much arguing and verbal anguish. Then the Big T, the boy-child and the body of the tongs returned. The ring was still attached to the finger, but the rest of the tongs had been hack-sawed off. We could eat breakfast.
Not exactly the perfect family meal I had in mind, but at least the food was still vaguely edible. And any notion I’d entertained of enjoyable, meaningful discussion was quickly abandoned. The conversation pretty much centred on whether to use a hacksaw or a dremmel to remove the rest of the tongs.
And the winner is …
The hacksaw. This worked brilliantly, but you have to stop every now and then to pour cold water on the hand because (we discovered this empirically) sawing causes friction, which burns skin.
When I woke up this morning; all I wanted was a chance to let the Big T know that we appreciate him, and to create a nice memory of familial togetherness. It didn’t quite go to plan, but at least this is one Father’s Day he’ll never forget.
Carefree: without worries or responsibilities.
We often think of childhood days as carefree; and it is true that watching young children at play evokes a sense of their freedom from concern or constraint.
When the boy-child was younger, fantasy games formed a huge part of his everyday play. Like many children, he loved to create forts out of chairs and blankets, turn cardboard boxes into spaceships, dress up and invent imaginary friends. In his case they were imaginary older siblings, which, for a mother struggling with infertility, was pretty tough to deal with at times.
Incredibly inventive, he was constantly making things. Lego and building blocks were indispensable in building props for his, often quite complex, games. Cardboard sheets were sellotaped and stapled into cars, aeroplanes and once, a huge aircraft carrier (and I mean huge).
Items he wanted but didn’t have were improvised. As a two year old, he made a skateboard out of cardboard and spent hours “doing tricks” on it (I have video footage of this, just waiting until his first commercial skate movie comes out). At pre-school he persuaded one of the teachers to spend a session helping him build a guitar out of cardboard boxes and cylinders, and his first “iPod” was made out of stapled construction paper with a carefully hand-drawn screen.
There was no definite end to this phase, but I suspect that the beginning of the end was primary school. Whereas his Montessori preschool positively encouraged fantasy plan and creativity, his school did not. Nor did many of his new playmates seem to want to involve themselves in the elaborate dressing-up games.
Basically, he began to notice what other children said and did a lot more and he learned to care … specifically to care what other people thought of him. With that came a diminished capacity to be carefree – instead the key-word became cool.
The boy-child is now 15 and, I think, pretty comfortable in his own skin. He has at times shown tremendous courage – standing up for what he believes in and taking teasing and occasional cyber-nastiness very much in his stride. He seems to have a strong sense of who he is and is willing to go out into the world saying “this is me.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop him choosing his clothing, haircut and shoes according to the “fashion” determined by his peer group, nor rolling his eyes when I suggest something that is “just so uncool.” But in general, I think he has both the ability and the will to think for himself.
But he is no longer carefree.
I’m posting these photos of my beautiful child to remind him how awesome he is; and in the hope that he will continue to grow his sense of self and one day be happy to put the fairy wings back on, tune the cardboard guitar and take off into space with Nick, Jessica (the imaginary siblings) and – his companion in many adventures – Wham the wonder dog (who is very real, only not a real dog).
Here are some other posts you might like: