Today is our eldest son’s birthday. Today he turned 5-years-old. That means, for want of another term, I am celebrating my own fifth anniversary of being a parent. Early this morning (about 5:15am) I woke up went through my Facebook photos looking for one of him as close to his birth as possible. Well that is to say, one AFTER he left the incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) because no one wants to see a newborn in distress on his birthday.
In the lead up to today, I have been going back and looking at photos from the last five years and being very nostalgic. When I saw this photo I have to admit, although I was tired from a late night baking his birthday cake the night before, I did shed a tear and not because I was tired, but because when it comes to our boys, I am an emotional wreck thinking about their milestones.
I’ll skip the details of this morning with him opening his present and us singing Happy Birthday at breakfast, but I want to mention – even though this is not the topic of this post – that today was his first day at big school; we had a 90 minute orientation at the school he’ll be starting at in 2014. As he walked ahead of me towards the kindergarten class rooms, I was really tearing up. I am very thankful that it was a very hot and sunny day and that my sunglasses weren’t leaving my face.
And that, as my sub-title of this post might suggest, IS the point of this post; well sort of. What I want to present to you is my speech from his naming day which was held exactly three months to the day of his birth. It was a very hot day that day. Extremely hot. And there I was, standing up in front of family and friends, reading a letter I penned to my first born son, and it was only one sentence in and I completely lost it. Luckily our celebrant stepped up and read it with the passion that I had intended. Lucky she was able to look at my grammar, use the punctuation and give pause where pauses were needed, and bring the words to life as I so eagerly wanted to.
So here is my speech to my boy. Our boy. Cadel…
Every man, when looking into the future, thinking about his objectives in life such as careers, journeys, dreams and wishes would naturally place having a family high on his list of things he wants to do. When breaking it down to the next, level having a son would also be very high on his list. I know having a baby boy was the icing on the cake for me.
There are those who want to live vicariously through their offspring, sometimes to the detriment of their child. Sure there are paths that I’d like to see you head down, there are unfulfilled dreams of mine that I hope become your own; will you be a famous rock star flying around the world entertaining the masses? Will you lace up a pair of boots on the day of the grand final playing in front of a crowd of thousands; be it rugby league, Australian Rules or even soccer? If you really have to play rugby union so be it, but don’t try to explain those rules to me.
Whatever it is that you want to achieve just know this; I will always be here to support you. Whenever you fell you’ve lost your way, I will be here to guide you.
If ever you are feeling less than perfect know this; no one expects you to be perfect, all your mother and I hope is that you be the best Cadel James Milton you can be. You have a great chance at the moment of being just that; I Googled your full name and there is no one else with such a moniker so you’ve got a good head start on anyone else who follows with your name.
Research tells me that the name Cadel hasn’t been in the top 100 boys’ names let alone the top 1000 names for at least the last century. But just you wait. One day you might achieve something great; something that makes you stand out above your contemporaries. One day the name Cadel will be known by more than those who pay attention to the updates about the Tour De France tucked away at the end of the sports bulletin.
According to the naming books it is said that your name is of Welsh origin meaning “battle.” I expect you will battle it out on the sporting field, you might enter a battle of the bands, you might have to battle the traffic, and to a very lesser extent you might even become a fan of the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica.
A direct quote from my favourite website Wikipedia; “Battles are decided by various factors. The number and quality of men and equipment, the commanders of each army, and the terrain advantages are among the most prominent factors.”
Your life needn’t be a battle but if you do face challenges, you will be a strong commander of your life. You have your mum and I (and I expect a sibling or two), your grandparents, your aunties and uncles, your cousins, your godparents, and your extended family to help you. Yes the number and quality of your men (and women) to help you win your battle will be vast and strong.
As for the terrain, although you burst into tears when we put you in the surf on your first trip to the Gold Coast, I am sure that it is the sand that will be your finest battle ground. As Winston Churchill once remarked “we will fight them on the beaches.” I think he was talking about beach cricket.
So whatever it is that you want out of life, go for it. You have my support, you have your mum’s support, and I am sure that you have the moral support of everyone standing here before you today as well as those who are absent but send their love.
For the short term my goal is to wipe the drool from your face as you are too young to notice it. For the long term my promise to you is to love you unconditionally, my vow is to protect you from harm‘s way, and my dream is to provide you the best things in life.
My wish is for you to return the favour when I’m too old to notice the drool running down my face.
I hadn’t read that for a few years. As I sit here at my desk with everyone else in the house asleep I will once again admit that my own words made me cry.
I look at this speech that I wrote 4-years-and-9-months ago and see the “prophecies” that were fulfilled, but also the things that were unforeseeable errors. I thought about how I looked out with tears in my eyes at his naming day seeing my mother so proud of me, and my mother-in-law equally as proud. And now both are gone. They WERE amongst the “everyone standing here before you today” crowd, and now they’re both in the “absent but send their love” crowd.
I thought of those first 3-and-a-half years of him being the World’s Worst Sleeper™ and the “battles” we faced with that. I thought about the day his mother had to work, but he and I travelled two hours north to Newcastle to watch my brother-in-law play in his Rugby Union grand final (and I didn’t need the rules explained to me).
I thought about how we added that sibling for him, and thought about another but then decided on just the two of them. I thought about how, on his naming day we had his 2-month-old second cousin (daughter of my wife’s cousin), his 3-week-old cousin (my wife’s sister’s baby), and my brother’s eight month pregnant with twins wife there. And now we have three second cousins and another due in January, plus three first cousins on my wife’s side and my brother’s twins on my side of the family. Then there’s my own cousins’ kids who we have been fortunate to see every year thanks to holidays and business trips in Queensland.
All of this makes me feel part of something greater. Something big. No, let me do that again. Something BIG.
And all because five years ago today we had a baby.
And I became a father.