My son turned 21 this week amidst scant celebration.
He is not one to mope about feeling sorry for himself but it must have been tough spending his 21st with his parents.
Inside his card, I wrote out one of my favourite poems, “The Orange” by Wendy Cope. It is an ode to the joy of simplicity something, which if fully appreciated, always helps to get us through our most challenging times.
This week I have been thinking a lot about all the effort people are making to move their minds away from the strangeness of the times, and the ways in which we are hankering after a return to normal, and I can’t help but think we are missing something important.
Twenty-one years ago when Tom was born on an unfeasibly windy Tuesday morning, his mother had her tea and toast while I stood outside the hospital calling everyone I knew to tell them I had become a father.
I had not thought about what it was to be a father and I had no idea what the rest of my life would look like. At that point, I had nothing but ignorance, and that had to be enough.
The day we brought Tom home the enormity of it all hit me like a bus. Suddenly we had total responsibility for this little human life. Everything we did would have an impact and nothing would ever be the same again.
Sometimes parents with young children have talked to me about how they find themselves longing for a taste of their pre-child life, even though we know we can never go back.
Normal is a word that doesn’t mean anything really because everything is always different, all of the time. The only thing which is a surprise is that we believe in the concept of “normal” at all.
Change is constant and certainty is a myth.
Someone said to me of parenthood before my children were born, “You’ll never know worry like it”
They were right, except they forgot to tell me that I would never experience joy like it either. In great spades and swathes which have made all the difficulties and adjustments from my pre-children life disappear like dust.
Sometimes change comes because we ask for it but mostly it arrives without invitation. What really enables us to manage is not our ability to ignore it or hold our breath until it passes, it is the way in which we are able to adapt and accept until we feel more acclimatized.
In the poem, Wendy Cope describes the joy which comes about when we are able to see the beauty in small things, whatever chaos rages around us.
On his cake, I had iced Tom’s name in thin water icing flavoured with rose which is the icing my mother often used on cakes she made for him when he was a small child. It was only a hint, but he noticed and made mention of his grandma which opened a box of memories reminding him of a time he cannot have again but which he can hold as comfort into even the most uncertain of futures.