There’s bound to be some blood along the way

This is what makes my boy so easy to love: his boy­ish­ness

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - THOMAS FROESE Thomas Froese writes about fa­ther­hood. Read more at his Daily Dad posts at www.thomas­froese.com

To­day we’re go­ing to talk about the boy. Child No. 2. My son.

You may have a boy also. And if he hasn’t yet put his head in­side the open mouth of an al­li­ga­tor, then, well, con­grat­u­la­tions.

My boy an­nounced re­cently that he’s go­ing to jump from a plane. “I’ll get my friends. We’ll all jump to­gether,” he in­formed me. This, when he turns 18, a parachut­ing party into adult­hood.

My boy also tells me that he’s now plan­ning a ca­reer as a dare­devil. I don’t know. I mean, do RESPs cover dare­devil school? There he is with his friends, I’m pic­tur­ing, rid­ing three days on the un­der­bel­lies of a pa­rade of wild for­est ele­phants.

This is what makes my boy so easy to love: his boy­ish­ness. Noth­ing makes him cra­zier than be­ing hin­dered from go­ing about his boy­ish busi­ness.

“Dad, can I wear my skates to bed?” Or, “Dad, I’m go­ing get a tat­too of a fish.” Or, “Dad, I lost my un­der­wear at school to­day.” “Uhuh,” is what I al­ways say. School, of course, can be a sore spot for my boy. “You’ll never be­lieve what hap­pened to­day,” he told me just be­fore sum­mer break from his Hamil­ton pub­lic school. “Dad,” he said, “they gave us a walk-and-talk re­cess. We weren’t al­lowed to run. They said it was too hot.” Too hot, I guess, to laugh, too. That got us talk­ing about Africa, where, yes, it’s hot, and where my boy, as you may know, largely grew up. It’s where he did run, where he saw life in its many shades, where he cap­tured his high and no­ble sense of boy­hood.

In Africa, that place of more dan­ger but less fear, where my boy (we were chimp trekking) has, in­deed, walked through real forests in­hab­ited by real for­est ele­phants.

To­day, it’s hard to say how much of this con­trib­uted to his cur­rent dare­devil ca­reer path, even as it’s hard to say how much of his Cana­dian ex­pe­ri­ence led to my son’s pre­vi­ous de­sire to be a hockey player. (A hockey player, he as­tutely rea­soned, to make enough money to be a farmer.)

But by now you get the drift. It’s a bloody busi­ness to be a boy, even as it’s a bloody busi­ness to be a par­ent. Noth­ing (short of eat­ing a pack of ra­zor blades; please don’t give the boy any ideas) can cut you open like par­ent­ing can.

So goes the par­ent­ing drum­beat. The days may seem long, but the years are a blur. Some blood along the way is just part of the ride.

My boy knows about this, too. One sunny day he was chas­ing, nat­u­rally, a girl. Fullflight, he fell on a con­crete stair. By the time I was in the school’s nurs­ing sta­tion to see his fore­head split open, the colour of his blood­soaked cloth­ing was be­yond recog­ni­tion.

Later, on the sur­geon’s ta­ble, a large nee­dle of anes­thetic go­ing into his head, my boy looked up at me in wide-eyed hor­ror. He screamed while I held him down, “No Daddy! No Daddy! No!”

To­day, it comes to mind. And more. There’s my boy’s re­cent wa­ter-ski­ing manoeuvres on an On­tario lake. His “Dad, look, I’m play­ing hockey on my Rip­stik!” His re­cent late-night ER visit. His mother’s wor­ries.

The world, in its fears and lies, will al­ways try to squeeze this sort of life out of its boys and mould them into some­thing less. But some boys never lose their es­prit li­bre, their spirit of gen­er­ous liv­ing.

My boy, it seems, will al­ways be one of those boys, just like, maybe, your boy, or boys, or fu­ture boys, will be.

It’s all not bad to think about to­day. Be­cause to­day is my boy’s birth­day. Yes, to­day my son Jonathan, mid­dle name Thomas, turns 12. Twelve.

It’s the last year, they say, of pure boy­hood. A tran­si­tion year into things more manly. Maybe. Maybe men can be boys, too.

Once upon a time, af­ter all, the boy’s Old Man made his own para­chute jump. That was long be­fore I ever imag­ined my boy. Or his sis­ters. Or the chil­dren’s mother. In my youth, that was a crazy jump, for sure.

Funny enough, fam­ily life, I’ve dis­cov­ered, isn’t much dif­fer­ent.

Happy birth­day, son.

PHOTO BY MARGO HEAD

Jonathan Froese, who just turned 12, show­ing his boy­ish ways on the front lawn of his for­mer African home in Uganda. Boys like Jonathan “will never lose their es­prit li­bre, their spirit of gen­er­ous liv­ing,” says colum­nist Thomas Froese.

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