In my profile on Facebook there are six children listed as mine. I specify that only two of them are my biological children. The other four are children I have helped raise but with whom I have very limited contact or in the case of the two youngest girls – no contact at all.
One of the most discomforting things about Facebook is that, depending on its useage, it can render important relationships trivial; easily stripping words of their meaning. Unlike business networking sites like Linked-in, for example, where business contacts are labelled connections; on Facebook, the merest of acquaintances can be a friend, sibling or parent if the user wishes them to be.
So when I listed these children as mine I was very cautious for two reasons – I no longer lay claim to the title of parent, a word that should be considered a verb more than a noun (if you aren’t actively parenting then you aren’t actually a parent) and I have no wish to offend the biological parents of these children.
I do however love these children, who have become estranged from me, as my own. And like all declarations of true love – I am happy to shout it from the rooftops.
I have a son whose full name is J. David Houghton. That’s David, or Baby David if you prefer. To me, there is only one J – the chubby-faced, tear-away child I met at a Starbucks nearly eleven years ago. J was the happiest child I have ever met , he was nearly never without that huge face-covering smile of his. From morning to night for over six years that smile lit up my life… well… if I could get him to stand still for long enough to see it. If there was ever a child that should have been born with a sign – a huge neon sign with lettering in ultra-violet multi-coloured, chasing LEDs – that read ADHD tied around their neck it was J. The masters of understatement in Early Childhood Land might have called him an “on-the-go” child. “On-the-go” my bum; he was the frickin’ energizer bunny on speed. One of those child leashes that are seldom seen in today’s politically correct world would never have held J – his energy demanded an elephant gauge chain somehow surgically implanted. He made Roger Rabbit look like a morphine-addled geriatric. You get the picture. . He was the child that demanded to be thrown in the air, to be chased, to be joined outside to kick or throw the ball . We were always at the park playing together – that was J. That boy bounced, jumped, scrambled, flipped, clambered, spun, kicked and ran, especially ran, his way through his early years.
One Hanukkah, Deb (his Mom) and I bought J an electric scooter – he became a child possessed. He rode that thing from dusk til dawn in the freezing weather, nothing, not frostbite, hunger or sleep deprivation stopped that boy from riding it. For a while there I swear he dreamt that scooter. His energy and passion were boundless.
On a family day out at Bumbershoot one year, it was J who asked to be taken into the mosh pit of the packed evening concert. I’m guessing there were about 25,000 people there. He was the only six year old in the mosh-pit. He was the only one under eighteen in there. His mom was reluctant at first but she eventually allowed him to be hoisted up onto my shoulders. As we walked into the crowd he wrapped his arms tightly around my face so I could only just see, his little body trembling with both fear and anticipation. Well, once he felt safe, it didn’t take long for him to realize he had the best “seat” in the house and perched up there he could see the band! J began bouncing around like a jack-rabbit no-doubt mimicking the thrashing teenagers, whilst keeping time by drumming his hands on my head, his screams and laughter ringing in my ears. We stayed there for ages and when we did return he convinced his sister to try it – he’d loved it so much. She became the only four year old in the mosh-pit… and she loved it just as much. There was a small downside to our partying, both of them did ask on the way home why girls were throwing underwear on the stage – I’ve news for you, there’s no good answer for that question.
Likewise it was J who took me to school one day. Not on a parent’s career day. No, of course not. I was his show-and-tell Australian. I took along maps and some books on native animals but mostly what the class wanted was to hear me talk. This was all very passé to J, but he was very happy and proud anyway.
You know, I could tell hundreds of stories about J , about the day he nearly got run over; about his forays into fencing and soccer and baseball and dance (nice tights dude); about his very brief flirtation with cricket (the sport); about me throwing the baseball too hard (sorry J) ..hey but now you can catch just about anything huh? about our family trips to Ohio,San Diego and Italy; about school dances, events and trips when I chaperoned; about the day we caught the fly-ball at Safeco and watched Lou throw a classic wobbly; about how we used to sneak into the seats above first base; about how proud I was at parent/teacher meetings (J always got a good report); about my one and only baseball card, which was given to me by J – my Edgar is still treasured; about how honored and touched I was to be invited to speak at his Bar Mitzvah; about his many, many wonderful qualities his intelligence, his persistence – go the Tuba, his generosity and kind nature.
But what I really want to say to J is how much of a hole there is in my life since we’ve not seen each other over the past four years. I miss you. I’m sorry that relationship breakdowns suck so much. I’m sorry I’ve been all over the place. I’m sorry that I wasn’t always there for you. You are very important to me and I love you. And I hope that before you leave the nest and begin your adult life we can see each other sometimes and you can tell me what’s happening with you.
When J and I met for the very first time at Starbucks he ran at me and leapt on me giving me the biggest bear-hug and smack on the lips. We loved each other from word go.
Me and my boys – hopefully we are all Forever guys.