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


The Future Has Different Rules …

As I’ve written before, I didn’t go to University. I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to continue my formal education.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t/don’t like to learn, it just means I find it far more powerful when it’s not in an academic environment.

I still remember telling my parents my decision and being slightly scared.

They desperately wanted me to go so I was worried they would see this as a slight on them – which is absolutely not what it was meant to be.

They asked for my reasons and when I told them, they said that they would support my decision as long as I applied in case I changed my mind.

So I did.

And I got accepted.

But I was still sure not going was the right thing for me, so my parents – while obviously disappointed – supported my decision and never brought it up again.

Looking back now, I feel that must have been very hard for them.

At that point, going to university was the fast track to a career and yet – as another act of their love and confidence in me – they pushed me to follow the things that genuinely interested and excited me and hoped it would all work out.

I’d say it did.

But now I’m a dad and while Otis is only 3, the thought of education looms large.

Would I do the same thing as him?

Of course I want to help equip my son in the best way possible for the life he wants to lead and one of those ways is to provide him with a good education. But the fact is I’m vehemently opposed to private education and while general access schools can be very good, the reality is private tends to offer better opportunities simply because of the funding and the facilities … which leads to an interesting conflict.

What’s best for my son versus what’s true to me?

Given Otis is so young right now, the decision will ultimately be mine and his Mum’s, but once he’s older, what do I do if he chooses a path I feel is not in his best interests.

Sure, it worked out for me, but the World was different back then and then I saw the ‘god’ instagram above – a sentiment that was absolutely reinforced by our recent America In The Raw research – and realised that by the time he has to make some choices, he will be far more aware of what he needs to do to increase his odds of success than his Mum or me.

But then I realised something else …

It’s not just about acknowledging their view of their World will be better than yours, it’s also backing your parenting.

When my Mum and Dad supported my decision, they were ultimately supporting how they raised me.

They believed the values and smarts they’d instilled in me were the right ones to enable me to make the right choices … and while I know they would have been there if it all fell down, that sense of confidence and belief probably enabled me to go to places I might otherwise not have done. Places I might not otherwise have felt I deserved to be.

And that’s why backing your team is everything.

Of course you have to instill values and standards into them, but once that’s done, you have to back them including what they think is right – even if you don’t – because if that doesn’t happen, you’re literally stopping their potential rather than liberating it.

Thank you Mum and Dad. Again.

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Give A Little Love To The People Who Think They Will Never Get Any …

As today is Valentine’s Day, I am going to write about love.

Not the rubbish peddled by the card and florists so they can charge a 100% mark-up on their usual prices because today is supposedly a ‘special day’, but the sort of love that shows you genuinely care rather than have been bullied into looking like you do.

The fact is, they’re more people on the streets than at any point in the last 20 years and it’s going to get worse.

While a lot of media likes to paint these individuals as thieves or con artists, the vast majority are good people who have simply fallen on hard times. This could be because of family, work or mental health – but they are good people and we can’t be allowed to forget that.

While it’s easy to avoid them, I have a little ask.

If you see someone who you think is having a tough time – and please know most don’t have the confidence to write a sign, let alone ask for help – just quietly go up to them and say, “I don’t want to embarrass you but I thought this might help” and then provide what you can.

A bit of money, some food or a [none alcoholic] drink.

Then simply walk away with no fuss or expectation of gratitude because I guarantee your small act will have made a difference, if only for the momentary interaction of human warmth that is hugely different from the invisibility and insignificance they experience every day.

As many of you know, this is an issue that is hugely important to me that I see getting worse every day. Any help, helps … from simply acknowledging their existence, to offering a little helping hand to doing something that can give them back some of the self-esteem that they thought they had lost forever.

I will be forever grateful to Virgin and Human_2 for helping me see how much a little gesture can make a big difference. If more people understood that, maybe they’d feel more comfortable reaching out when they see someone having a tough time.

Happy Valentine’s Day.



Listen For The Quiet Ones …

The older I get, the more I realise how brilliant my parents were.

There are so many reasons.

They gave me all the love and support and encouragement you could ever want.

They gave me incredible advice for how to live my life.

They told me to go live my life when they could have asked me to stay at home with them.

But for all those things, there was one thing they taught me that I feel was even more important than all that.

You learn from everyone.

Everyone.

That didn’t mean I had to agree with their point of view.

Nor did it mean I had to adopt their point of view.

What they wanted me to understand was every person has a story and if you really listen to what they say, it can help you learn a bunch of things.

Not just in the practical ‘move ahead in life’ stuff.

But in the understanding of how life works and how everyone is trying to deal with it as best they can.

And that’s why every month – from about the age of 8 to the age of 16 – my Dad would bring a homeless person [or as they were called in those days, tramps] to our house for dinner.

The deal was they would get a hot meal, a hot shower and a nice bed for the night if they told me about their life and what they had learnt from it.

Given the work I’ve done with HUMAN_2, I imagine my Dad often received a negative response. Not because the people he asked liked the situation they were in, but because they had experienced years of false promises or – worse – open avoidance and so were deeply mistrusting of anyone who approached them. But regardless of that, my Dad kept doing it and I’m so grateful he did.

Well, I say grateful, but at the time I found it weird.

Annoying even.

But looking back now, I realise how amazing and important it was.

It defined who I am.

It shaped how I do my job.

It ensured I respect people by their approach to life rather than their possessions.

It embodied my Mum always told me “… to be interested in what others are interested in”.

It’s probably why I value empathy in a planner more than curiosity. Though that could also be because the way planners talk about curiosity makes me sick.

But even more than that, I distinctly remember hearing a number of the visitors we had saying thank you to my parents. Not just for the food/shower/bed, but for being valued and being given a chance to be heard.

Which is maybe why when we were setting up HUMAN_2, the goal wasn’t to simply provide money to the homeless, but to provide assistance to those who wanted to help themselves out of their situation but didn’t know how.

I say all this because I recently saw a notice about a local homeless guy in Manhattan Beach who sadly died.

It really struck a chord with me.

Not just because it was touching to see a community acknowledge someone who many would treat as if they’re invisible, but because in the last 2 words of their note, they said something that encapsulated empathy and compassion for humanity.

You see as much as we live in a World where media likes to promote worth and value by what we own rather than who we are and how we live, LA amplifies that superficiality by about a billion … which is why the authors last 2 words were so beautiful and so important.

I just hope gentle Artie knew it.



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.



To My Beloved Otis. Always Run Towards Happiness ….

Following on from yesterday’s post, I want to talk about the dismay I feel about the Australian government asking for a referendum on whether gay marriage is acceptable.

What offends me even more than the fact this shouldn’t even be an issue is that when there are issues that should have input from the nation – from immigration to military intervention – the decisions are made without any level of consultation.

It makes absolutely no sense, unless the government think gay marriage is more dangerous than defending Australia’s shores.

Actually, they probably think it is.

One of the reasons this issue bothers me is that on top of everything else, my son Otis has an Australian passport.

OK, he also has a British and Canadian one … but should he wish to settle in Australia when he’s older, I want him to have all the rights heterosexuals have, which is why I hope, should he ever need reassurance, he see’s this message that I wrote about marriage equality a while back and knows his Mum and Dad love him and will always support him in his quest for happiness and fulfillment.



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



You Wish Your Child Was Like My Son … Asshole
July 21, 2017, 6:10 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Otis, Parents

That photo is of my son, Otis.

He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

He is cheeky, curious, kind, loving, beautiful and absolutely full of energy.

Now I’m sure most parents would describe their child like that, but based on a situation we experienced recently, it seems even other parents would regard Otis’ energy as being at another level.

Maybe it’s because he was restricted from going out in China because of the pollution.

Maybe it’s because he’s just loves being with other kids.

Maybe it’s because he is excited and curious about life.

Whatever it is, he can make the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth – and while we love seeing him run around and laugh – some other parents view this as a fault.

A few weeks ago, he was running around while some other kids were sat on the floor. He wasn’t bothering them, but in his excitement, he accidentally fell onto another child.

The reaction of both this other kid – and their parent – was extreme.

They acted like Otis had attacked them, even though he got up and [remember he’s only 2 1/2] said sorry and patted the child on the arm as a way of apologising. [We did the same … apologise I mean]

Apparently that wasn’t enough, because the parent came right up and ‘suggested’ Otis should be given a 2 minute time-out as punishment.

Fuck you!

Who the hell are you to try and dictate how we deal with our son?

Who the hell are you to try and curb his enthusiasm for life?

It was an accident. If it wasn’t, he would have been reprimanded, but he’s a sweet, caring, happy kid and all he did was fall over because his energy was running faster than his little chubby legs could go.

But as much as this parent fucked me off, it taught me a valuable lesson.

Before, when parents saw Otis running around like a happy lunatic, they would say things like, “He’s got a lot of energy hasn’t he?” and I would respond with a World-weary sigh and say something like, “You have no idea.”

But now I don’t.

Now I look at the person and say, “Yes, isn’t it awesome”.

Because it is.

As is my son.

And I’m not going to help a stranger feel better about their self-declared parental expertise by putting him down.