The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.

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Oh Dad, I Miss You So Much …
September 15, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Daddyhood, Death, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Mum & Dad

So on Sunday, it would be my Dad’s 79th birthday.

That means he has been gone 19 years.

NINETEEN.

That blows my mind because in some ways, it only feels like a couple of years since he died.

Obviously I wish he was still here.

Healthy.

Happy.

With Mum by his side.

And if he was, I would be sending them tickets to come to America.

To see their only son.

Their daughter in law.

The beloved grandson.

And we would sit in our back-garden in the evening sun and talk while we looked at Otis running around, doing his ‘missions’.

And at some point, I would stop and look at them all interacting … conscious of how special this moment was, trying to take it all in.

Dad’s kind eyes.

Mum’s beautiful face.

My wife’s happy smile.

My son’s infectious joy.

With a backdrop of laughter and love … all mingling together in a way that made it absolutely perfect.

A perfect I’d want to remember forever because in some ways, it would be everything I had ever wished for and wanted.

Happy birthday for Sunday my dear Dad.

Not a day goes by without me thinking of you.

Rxxx



Running With Only The Odd Glance Back …
March 9, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Comment, Dad, Death, Emotion, Empathy, Fatherhood, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Parents

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my wonderful Mum passing away.

If I’m being honest, I’m going through a strange time with it.

On one hand, it seems like yesterday.

The pain. The sadness. The despair.

When I stop and think about it, it re-awakens all the trauma from that day and the days that followed.

However, I am conscious that these thoughts only occur when I give them time to happen.

They are no longer just sitting in my mind, waiting to jump out … I have to open the door to let them in.

I think Mum would be happy about that.

She would never want me to still feel paralysed by the sadness of her loss.

All she would want is for me to think of her in happy terms … remembering the good times we had together.

And I do.

Almost every day.

But I have to admit, I feel a bit guilty about that.

It’s as if I’m not honouring her properly.

Part of it is because it took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad dying.

Of course the circumstances between the two situations were entirely different, plus I now have Otis who ensures there is never enough time for darkness to fill my heart … but it still feels strange that only on her anniversary do I go back to ‘that day’.

I loved my Mum so much.

I still do.

I miss her every day.

I would do anything to talk to her one more time.

There is so much I want to tell her.

Of what has happened in the past 2 years.

Of what is about to happen.

I’d love to hear her opinion.

I’d love to hear her reaction.

I’d love to hear her questions.

I know this will sound ridiculous, but there are some days where I think I can.

No seriously.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten she has gone and all I have to do is ring her up.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have stared at her Skype photo, just looking at her face.

I’ve talked to it. I’ve gently caressed it. I’ve even clicked on it a couple of times and let it ring … hoping she’ll pick up and everything will carry on as before.

But of course she doesn’t and she can’t … and yet there is something comforting that I still feel she is in my life.

By that I don’t mean it in terms of my memories – she’ll always be there – I mean the feeling that I’ve simply not spoken to her for a little while.

It means she lives in my present, not my past.

I know that sounds weird and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable – but while today represents 2 years since one of the worst days of my life – she, and Dad, would be happy to know I face this day looking forwards rather than being stuck in the past.

Love you Mum.

As you can see from the photos, we’re doing well, especially Otis, so don’t worry about us.

I hope you’re holding hands with Dad and laughing.

Rxxx

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Dear Dad …
January 16, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Childhood, Comment, Dad, Death, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Dad, how can it be 18 years.

How is that possible?

I remember that phonecall like it was yesterday.

You had been in hospital since Christmas having taken a turn for the worse.

And then on the 27th December, Mum called to say it was very bad and the Doctors had told her that I should come back right away.

In a weird way, this did not worry me.

We had gone through the same situation twice in the last 3 months and both times, you had pulled through.

But then I realised Mum’s voice sounded a bit different … more scared … and that’s when I started to get worried.

As you know, after a rather traumatic flight from Sydney, I got to Nottingham and was by your side at the QMC.

You were very poorly, but you knew I was there and it seemed to help.

But the strange thing is I can’t really remember what happened between arriving by your side and the Doctor asking me if I wanted him to remove the suffering you were going through.

I know Mum and I spent every day – from the moment visiting hours started to when they ended – next to you.

I know I told you how much I loved you. How I tried to will you back to health.

But the actual conversations and considerations are a total blank.

I’d like to say it’s because 18 years is a long time, but it’s actually because my brain refused to let me deal with the realities of your situation until that conversation with the Doctor.

4 years of delusion and denial pricked by a single conversation with the Doctor.

4 years of ignoring Mum as she quietly and tenderly tried to prepare me for the inevitable.

I certainly hope I was better when Mum passed away.

Of course, it was less expected than your situation and yet, deep down, I feared it may happen – as, it seems, did Mum – which is why I was much more aware of what was happening or what may happen.

So I need to thank you yet again, for helping me learn.

For trying to ensure I didn’t face more pain than I absolutely needed to.

Oh Dad, I wish you were here.

I wish I could hear the questions you would have for me.

I wish I could look into your bright blue eyes as you heard what I’d been up to over the last 18 years.

The decisions I’ve made …

The situations I’ve encountered …

The life I have somehow managed to live …

I would give anything to hear the pride – mixed with incredulity – you’d express about the career I’ve managed to forge.

The places it’s let me live. The people it’s let me meet. The experiences it’s let me enjoy.

The family it has let me have.

The daughter-in-law you would absolutely adore.

And the grandson you would be totally obsessed with.

But you’re not here … not physically, anyway … but in a weird way, Mum passing has made me feel closer to you.

Not that you were ever far away, but 18 years meant I had got used to the memory of you rather than the presence of you.

However now Mum has joined you, I kind of feel you’re both near me again.

I know that’s mad and I can see you shaking your head at me … but it’s true.

Don’t worry, I’ve not become a religious fool – but the fact you’re together has helped me a lot because I never was happy that you were both apart from each other.

But now, my mind, you’re back together, as you should be.

As you always were throughout my childhood.

And I cannot tell you how special that was to me.

Even more so now.

So while today is a day of sadness, it is also a day of joy … because you will be happy to know I am no longer lost in the pain of your final few years and can now focus on the wonderful life you had and we shared, exemplified when I had the honour of discovering the card you wrote to Mum when I was born.

I never doubted how much you loved me, but finding this was the verbal equivalent of one of your warm, wonderful hugs.

Sure I cried my eyes out, but oh what a feeling that was.

I so hope Otis feels the same way when he finally stops trying to wriggle out of my arms everytime I give him a cuddle. Ha.

So now it is time to go and I want to leave you by saying that while it has been 18 years, the love I have for you has never faded – if anything, quite the opposite – and even though I wish with all my heart that you were still here to be involved in the daily rituals of my life, the fact you’re with Mum makes the sadness a bit more manageable.

Still miss you though.

Love you Dad.

Rx

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Happy Birthday Mum …
November 3, 2016, 6:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Mum.

How I miss you.

I am in a better place than I was this time last year, but you are always in my thoughts.

I continually tell Jill how much I would have loved you to meet Otis.

He’s such a lovely little boy.

Cheeky but oh-so-sweet.

He can throw a temper tantrum in 0.3 milliseconds, but will always say “thank you” [in a weird Americanesque accent] the moment you do anything for him … from giving him a drink to opening the front door.

I think about what you’d say if you saw him.

How you’d look.

And I know the pride and joy on your face would be both for how wonderful your grandson is and how well you think I – your son – am doing with him.

Of course we both would know so much of it is down to Jill, but if I’m doing anything right [and if you read tomorrow’s post, you’ll realise that is questionable] it is down to the love and support I felt from you and Dad throughout my childhood.

The love and support I still feel, despite you both being gone.

And that’s why I’m wishing you a happy birthday … not just because I love you and I miss you, but because your presence is still with me and always will be, which is probably the best testimony I can give to you as a person and as a parent.

I am honoured that I was able to call you my Mum.

You were an amazing lady and a fabulous Mum in every possible way … even if you never thought you were and would be telling me to stop with all the compliments.

So Happy birthday Mum, tell Dad to give you an extra kiss from me. Love you. Rx

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Dad …
September 17, 2016, 6:30 am
Filed under: Dad, Mum & Dad, Parents

I wish I could be with you to sit down and chat.

I wish I could be with you to look right into your eyes.

I wish I could be with you to see your smile.

I wish I could be with you to give you a ridiculous present that I know you’d love.

I wish I could be with you and say Happy 78th.

Happy birthday Dad.

Love you … give Mum a kiss for me.

Rx

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When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time …
June 3, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Food, Jill, Otis, Parents

I’ve written previously about the privilege it is to see my son experience things for the very first time in his life.

His first word.

His first food.

His first crawl.

His first plane trip.

His first time in the sea.

I cannot put into words how magical and amazing it feels.

The only downside being it is a constant reminder he is growing up in the blink of an eye.

Before I was a Dad, I used to listen to parents say that about their children and think ..

“It takes 18 years for your kid to grow up. 18 years is a bloody long time. Get over it”

… but now I am a father, I totally get what they mean.

Every day something new happens.

A new word.

A new experience.

A new interaction.

And you both relish it and hate it because it means they’re growing up. Developing. Moving towards a time where they will no longer be reliant on you … a time where you will no longer be the most important people in their World.

The best thing about technology is I can capture these things in perfect clarity.

Not just so I can embarrass Otis when he’s older – though that is pretty good too – but so I can remember the feeling or love and wonder I have every time I am given the honour of witnessing my son grow up right in front of my eyes.

Which leads to the point of this post.

Recently we gave Otis his first taste of ice cream.

A product he could neither quite grasp in terms of taste or how to eat it.

But he liked it … or at least the concept of it.

I won’t say anymore – I’ll let you see it for yourself – though wouldn’t it be great if we were all this happy about such simple pleasures.

God, I love that kid so, so much.

Have a great weekend.