This past week we celebrated my son Zach’s 21st birthday. In Australian culture your 21st birthday is the biggest and most important milestone birthday there is. It truly represents a coming of age.
My biggest question is where did the time go?
No, seriously it was just yesterday when I held him in my arms after cutting his umbilical cord and understandably he was upset. But then a moment later he stopped crying and looked deep into my eyes as though he knew me.
That bond has been steadfastly solid since his birth. Even during the darkest of days and depths of his teenage years we had a special relationship…
It’s different from the relationship I have with my daughter Sam who also celebrated her 19th birthday just two weeks ago. No less strong, just different. It won’t be long and she’ll also be hitting her milestone birthday! Yikes…
What is it about the bond between father and son?
Although I didn’t have this with my dad, I’ve made it a priority to have the type of relationship I’d always craved with my dad with Zach.
Some might say the pendulum has swung the other way. In either case, I’m sure it will work out just fine but vastly different to the relationship I had with my dad.
After he left for University (he’s now in his third year of undergrad studies at McGill in Montreal), I felt a distinct sense of loss. In fact, with both Zach and Sam the feeling was crushing…
This stems from the amount of time we’ve spent together since my divorce including our many travel adventures together.
We had a different relationship when I was married, especially given that I had been traveling so much for work up until that time.
Re-prioritizing to make them the focus of my life was the best thing I ever did!
Step one was accepting the fact that my job was a barrier to me creating the life I’d always wanted with them both. Step two – some might say “where the rubber hits the road” and actually quitting my job.
Next was downsizing our lives to a smaller, more affordable house in a neighbourhood that I could afford without a huge monthly mortgage.
This was quite a contrast to the neighbourhood and mortgage that we had until then. As I explained to the kids when we were looking for a new house, this would enable us to travel.
And travel is just what we did!
Generally 3 – 4 months prior to school holiday I’d canvas them to see where we would spend their schools break.
Wow, were they ever creative! Our first trip after moving into our new place back in 2013 was Maui, Hawaii.
We literally moved our furniture into the new place from our rental, and left all the boxes in a pile in the middle of the lounge and then flew to Hawaii.
Engaging them and allowing them to choose our adventures was really important as it gave them a voice. In addition, encouraging them to research and provide input into activities while traveling was also important.
Thus, by allowing them to make decisions in a relatively safe environment, they were able to learn faster.
The most important thing I learned after spending as much time with them as possible was to listen. The other learning I took away is that, as a parent you need to be open to discussing anything and everything. No matter what the topic…
Sometimes more challenging than what you could ever imagine, but it so important to listen without judgement. Tricky…yes! Valuable…totally!
Although to be fair, I think my ex and I co-parented very well and continue to have a good relationship to this day. There was harmony and similar values across both households, clearly so important!
I guess I was fortunate in that they were both very mature and well adjusted. In fact I can’t remember a time when we were at odds.
Suffice it to say that their childhoods have flown by, but there is not a day that goes by when I don’t tell them that I love them. Sometimes it’s just a little prayer to myself before falling asleep, other times its to them directly.
So here is to an important milestone birthday Zach, and hope there are many, many more.
Until next week