The boy-child turns 18 today. It’s the end of one era; the beginning of another. Image: Su Leslie, 2016
Today is my parents’ in law’s 54th wedding anniversary. Both are unwell and may not even be aware that today is a special day for them.
Though not particularly hands-on grandparents, they have nevertheless been part of the boy-child’s day to day life since we returned to NZ from the UK when he was a toddler.
For the first few years, my in-laws generously let us take over their house and garden for the boy-child’s birthday parties. After that came many years of family birthday dinners – followed, in the last few years, by somewhat fleeting visits to share some cake, and deliver a card and cash.
But no more. A fall last April changed my father-in-law’s life forever, and with that, the lives of everyone in the family. Taken-for-granted traditions and rituals no longer make sense, and come the boy-child’s sixteenth birthday in a few days, we will be trying to find new ways to be a family.
I’m counting down to my son’s sixteenth birthday. Here is what has gone before:
School seems to be going well for the boy-child this year. He’s discovered a passion for business studies and this evening he initiated a conversation about law school.
Whatever he does, I hope he never loses his sense of self and his capacity for wonder.
I’m counting down to my son’s 16th birthday. Here is what has gone before:
The boy-child’s 16th is only a few days away. Between now and then (as well as working, chauffeuring, cooking, eating, sleeping and breathing), I also have to work on the wishes book, organise a cake, remember to phone my brother who turns 50 today and visit my in-laws who will spend their 54th anniversary apart on Tuesday because neither of them is well and father-in-law is in a nursing home. Am almost grateful my parents are divorced, as it would be have been their 58th wedding anniversary on Tuesday as well.
I’m going to need — coffee, chocolate and music … lots of it!
About ten years ago, when the boy child was five or six, we were driving through the part of town that’s traditionally been home to strip clubs and sex workers.
Out of nowhere, the boy-child says “are we in the red light district?”
“Er” … My brain’s going crazy trying to figure out ‘what does he know?’ ‘How am I going to handle this?’
“Why do you ask that sweetie?”
“Cos the traffic lights are always red through here.”
I’m counting down to my son’s sixteenth birthday. Here’s what’s gone before:
When the boy-child was a preschooler, we used to go to kindy gym. It was a great way for the kids to use up some energy, improve their co-ordination and motor skills and of course, have fun.
One day the teacher asked the kids to make a star with their bodies. A dozen or so 3-4 year olds dutifully stood stock still, arms and legs outstretched. The boy-child on the other hand, began to leap about, waving his arms like a demented windmill.
“Um, and what sort of star are you” asked the teacher kindly?
“A ROCK STAR” came the gleeful reply.
There’s always one, isn’t there?
This post was written as part of a countdown to my son’s 16th birthday. Here’s what has gone before:
“A rock star”
It’s a beautiful day, the boy-child has taken himself off to visit a friend in South Auckland, and it’s a good opportunity to work on his wishes book. So in lieu of musing on my life with the B-c, here is one of his first ever favourite songs. I know it came out in the year he turned four, so I’ve added a birthday photo too.
This post was written as part of my countdown to my son’s sixteenth birthday. Here’s what’s gone before:
As the boy becomes a man, gone are the yellow t-shirts, the sunny smiles and sadly, the golden hair – now almost always hidden under a cap or beanie.
Gone too the days when I could pick up my little bundle of exuberance and hug him close – on my terms rather than his.
I spent much the boy-child’s early years suffering from post-natal depression and didn’t enjoy a lot of the time I spent “being a parent.” But for a constellation of reasons, I was a very full-time parent, and so alongside the hours and days of boredom, anxiety, desperation and sometimes rage, were others filled with laughter and learning, beach trips and baking, singing silly songs and a quiet sort of happiness and pleasure in his company.
I’m counting down to the boy-child’s sixteenth birthday and trying to capture and save memories. Because in the words of Joni Mitchell:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til its gone
And I make no apology for including the Counting Crows cover Big Yellow Taxi. The band features heavily on the soundtrack to the boy-child’s early life.
And here is what has gone before in this countdown:
The boy-child was in a bad mood last night. He’d been sent to the principal’s office for not having a required text book. This is week three of the teaching year and it’s not like the class is still colouring-in name badges and doing introductions. The kid’s actually been coming home and telling us cool stuff he’s learned.
The reason he didn’t have the book was that he hadn’t gotten around to walking to the bookshop (a whole five minutes away) and buying it. This is despite several conversations with me that went kind of like this
Me: did you get your history text book?
B-c: Not yet, I’ll do it today.
Me: well text me from the bookshop and I’ll transfer the money into your account.
B-c: ok. Will do.
Me: Did you get your history book? You didn’t text me.
B-c: I, well I was pretty busy today. I’ll do it tomorrow.
Me: Don’t forget to get your text book.
B-c: I won’t
I even sent a couple of reminder texts. All of this goes against my principle of not being the kid’s brain / memory, but I figured he’s been on holiday for a couple of months and needed a bit of support.
But of course he turned up at class yesterday without his book and the inevitable followed.
And … this is the bit that I’m not getting … he’s annoyed with the Principal for a) wanting to see him about it, b) being annoyed with him, and c) giving him a detention – which frankly I think has more to do with his attitude of blaming others for his problems than the actual lack of a book.
Now I feel really fortunate that the boy-child does actually tell me stuff about what’s going on in his life, and I don’t want to sever that line of communication, but I felt completely unable to sympathise with him over yesterday’s events.
So we had THE CHAT … about how his school has a very strong philosophy of freedom and personal responsibility, and how he can’t really enjoy the freedoms without taking responsibility. About how what’s happened at school is very similar to what happens at home and that while I love him unconditionally, the same isn’t true of the Principal or his History teacher. And about how, if people don’t take responsibility for their own actions, governments (including the Principal) will impose rules. And boy, does my kid hate rules!
I don’t know how much of any of this has sunk in. It seems to me that my child operates in a very different universe to the one I know – one in which time has a purely personal dimension. He is amazingly good at achieving the things he wants in a very short time-frame, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that others’ time might not be infinitely elastic. I don’t think he’s deliberately selfish, just
massively largely unaware.
And this is the same child who, only minutes after the CHAT, remembered that I’d just come from a meeting and took the time to not only ask meaningful questions about how it went but also display an understanding of the issues and politics.
I wasn’t expecting that.
This post was written in the countdown to my son’s sixteenth birthday. Here’s what’s gone before:
This post is part of my countdown to my son’s 16th birthday. Here is what has gone before: