That he and I made it out of the first four years of his life is nothing short of providing evidence of miracles. If you don’t believe me or you’re new around these parts just go back in the Felix archives.
Let’s just say he liked to scream, didn’t like to sleep and was just one hell of an angry baby. Something clicked at around 4.5 and well, thank heavens for that.
He is my sensitive thoughtful guy, still a kid and yet often so wise and mature beyond his years. Wickedly funny, thoroughly emotional and good on the tooth is he. Then he torments one of his siblings to within an inch of their lives and well, situation normal.
This year has been a mighty fine one for him and I think that having a mighty fine year the year you become a teenager is not a bad way to start what is basically the Phase of Awkward.
He not only loves rugby he’s good at it. In the firsts with his club and as of last week officially in the region’s U13s representative side. He got a kit bag and everything. He told me that it makes him feel good about himself and that he feels like he has something with which he could go somewhere with. Isn’t that just the core dream you have for your kids – that they find something that is their thing, that puts fire in their belly, that makes them feel like they belong to something and have a place in this world?
Last night I had a mad dash out to the Kidspot Voices of 2013 party. I’m one of the inaugural Hall of Famers. Quite something. I left Felix in charge and just as I was leaving the event Felix texted me a picture of him and Grover pulling silly faces with the line, “Just if you are wondering we are fine but a Kit Kat would be nice”.
Yeah, he’s an awesome kid and I feel outrageously privileged to not only be witnessing him become a man but playing a part in it.
Felix got a stick lodged in his arm in the playground last week. Apparently he “tripped and fell”. “Tripped and fell” actually means “we play a game called Tomahawk Wars where we throw sticks at each other and one lodged in my arm”.
We “hoped” he got all the stick out because the FIRST AID TRAINED teachers are NOT allowed to touch the students to pull twigs from their forearms for them. It went a bit red and a bit icky so I whacked some antiseptic cream on it for a few days and it cleared up. Mostly.
Then this dark spot on the wound site appeared. Which, it turns out, would be the rest of the branch. I tried digging it out tonight with some tweezers and a needle but the writhing crying child didn’t help. I was also worried I might not get it all out and that this saga would drag on past Christmas. I mean, I’m already bored. So I took him up to our second home, Mona Vale Hospital Emergency.
I figured the likely event would be some local anaesthetic, a scalpel and a LOT of saline solution and then a stitch. Felix is INSANELY needle phobic so he was not happy about this concept AT ALL.
The registrar quizzed me (HOW LONG AGO?) then the senior doctor came in, took one look at it and said, “yeah, that needs surgery”.
I seriously thought he was taking the piss and laughed.
He wasn’t taking the piss, the kid needs surgery.
SURGERY. Something about length of time it’s been in there (shut up), that it’s a branch (lots of germs), near a joint (DANGER DANGER) and that these things can be “a bit fiddly”.
(namby pamby soft cocks)
And this was meant to be a post about how he started at a new high school today, TODAY.
Friday night saw us having a home game with Felix’s U12 rugby union team. There’s only three Friday night matches in the entire season so they’re like the birthday, Christmas and wedding anniversary parties with the ultimate present being a team win.
The Newport clubhouse is set up on a hill with a wide veranda so you can pull up a stool, chug down a cheap Coopers Pale Ale (or a vino OR even a champagne) while your kids mainline Passiona and tuck into your sausage sanger/hamburger/hotdog or fancy schmazy chicken tandoori ON.A.ROLL. I mean, what a sensation. We ALL had one! With yoghurt! AND there was salad and tomato on offer as well. What on earth will they think of next to outdo that culinary MASTERPIECE I ask you.
Being at home also means you can really hone your negligent parenting skills. Seriously, I didn’t see several of my million children all night, except for the occasional ‘oh there you are’ and ‘just go and do a wee behind that tree’. Winning.
At some stage I realised the game was almost underway and hot-footed it down to the sideline to get my yell on. The yelling I witnessed in the early trial games were all I needed to know we were home. You see, parents and coaches yell at rugby.
Like REALLY YELL.
Even better is that you only need a couple of core phrases to really get into it.
DOWN LOW DOWN LOW DOWN LOW is to remind the boys NOT to tackle other players above the waist. It’s a polite way of saying to the boys mid-flight FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOT AROUND THE NECK.
This is also a fine lesson in just how lazy many of our professional sportsmen are in their repeated offenses at head-high tackles. JUST BEND OVER YOU LAZY FUCK AND TACKLE HIM AROUND THE LEGS.
Anyway. The other core phrase is GO OVER GO OVER GO OVER.
This comes hot on the heels of DOWN LOW which has seen one or twenty boys all collapse on top of each other on the ground.
From what I can tell, at this point if you had the ball under NO CIRCUMSTANCES LET GO OF THE BLOODY BALL. Instead, wait until several of team mates run and stomp over the top of you, thereby pushing the other team back so you can push the ball ‘out the back’ to one of your team mates.
What can I say, it’s not MENSA.
I am totally addicted and I’m not sure just how my nerves are going to survive the whole season.
See, here’s the thing. Felix has the build and brain for rugby union and I can not tell you just how awesome it is seeing your kid find.their.passion. He loves all the plays and strategies (because apparently it IS more complex that get the ball, run, pass the ball, score a try. I know. I’m learning All.The.Time.) and in what has been one of the biggest revelations in my parenting of him – he can actually run.
Because this is still so new and shiny to me (Felix! Running! Not playing Minecraft! Muscles not atrophying on the lounge from all the Xbox inaction!) I tend to get quite carried away when he gets the ball. And by carried away I mean screamy.
Combine that with the fact he is a full forward and therefore gets the ball quite a bit AND that I have the MOST excellent, loud, holy shit we can hear you four suburbs away parenting voice it’s like I’m a pig in shit.
Which brings us back to last night’s game.
It had only just got underway when Felix ‘got a touch’, found a gap and was going for his life. Naturally I assumed full voice and bellowed a ‘RUUUUUUUUUUUN FELIX RUUUUUUUUUUUN’.
When I realised the entire ground was remarkably quiet.
And looking at me.
Blessedly there was some mirth in it. I explained it was so rare to see Felix run that when he does I get a little carried away. And then I hear, ‘I’d know that voice anywhere.’
And there was my uber chic old boss from the days I worked in a PR firm that rhymes with Hill & Knowlton. She was with her sons and husband from the basket weaving capital of Australia, Balmain.
Suddenly I felt less like Foghorn Leghorn and more like the Fisherwoman from The Magic Far-Away Tree.
Needless to say we had a potted history catch up – her family all fine, mine like a cart missing a wheel – before they headed off to cross three bridges and return to their hamlet while I totally missed Felix scoring a try. I know. I jog it in every single.
We went on to absolutely cane the opposition – meaning we’ve only lost one game this season.
So yeah, now I’m one of “those” sideline parents – loud, screamy AND smug.
I have always been a bit of an authoritarian. I think it’s fair to say the writing was on the wall when I tied a ruler to the back of my Wendy Walker doll to keep her shoulders back. It was cast in cement during my power-crazed days as a Library Monitor, School Monitress, School Prefect and House Captain. I would hand out those blue slips (or maybe they were pink?) to girls not wearing their hats or wearing their jumper without a blazer on Gordon station like Daddy Warbucks throwing hundred dollar bills at anyone to DEAR GOD stop that kid singing about the hard knock life.
In my defense it was less about some desperate bid for power and more the burning desire, no need, for everyone to do the right thing. I mean, is it so hard, is it such a crushing blow to your sense of identity, such a smothering of your character to simply wear a uniform correctly? It mystifies me to this day.
University marked a bit of a lull in the quest for world domination but being the Orientation Week Coordinator satiated the craving somewhat, particularly the serve I dished out to head of the Christian student group (Kingsley Box if my memory serves me correctly) for going into an information session carrying a dead rat and proselytizing to some very wide-eyed freaked-out first years. Nor the serve I dished out to one Gabby Millgate for defending him via the uni newspaper.
OK, this is starting to look bad.
Of course, in my adult life I have found the perfect forum to instigate rules and met out punishment when said rules are ignoredlaughed at disobeyed, I became a parent. Better still, I became a parent to boys. Boys need order and structure and parameters and the unquestioning love of their mothers. I have created the perfect storm of parenting while satisfying my penchant for power.
Before that blinding moment of sheer driving terror I was, brace for it, Ground Marshall.
And I quote (my bolding for your viewing pleasure):
Ground Marshall duties are to:
o Make sure the ground is set up correctly
o Introduce yourself to the opposing team and the referee
o Make sure game is capable of starting on time
o Make sure no one other than authorised persons are allowed on the playing enclosure (i.e. Referee, 2 water runners per team, touch judges only). Please note, Coaches and Managers must be behind the rope during the game except at half time.
o At half time only coaches and managers may enter the field. No parents allowed. Only the Captain of each side may talk to the Referee at half time.
o Control of serious injury situations (Managers have sheets and instructions – familiarise yourself with these)
o Have a mobile phone available
o Call ambulances if necessary
o Emergency contact numbers are in the Clubhouse. P2 key opens emergency vehicle gate – see Manager / Age Coordinator for key
o Allow only Newport appointed, or at other grounds, designated trained professionals to deal with serious injuries
o Enforce the spectator code of conduct particularly in respect of referees who should not receive any adverse comments from the crowd or coaches. Only the captain may talk to the referee during the game (including half time)
As you can see, a role not to be taken lightly.
Here’s what I learnt:
1. There is a distinct lack of respect for the rope marking the boundary between “playing enclosure” and “spectator area”. DISAPPOINTING.
2. Coaches struggle with the concept, nay, rule: “Coaches and Managers must be behind the rope during the game except at half time.” Bless ’em.
2. Fathers have a belief that even though they are not the coach, nor the manager, and not even a water runner or touch judge but are, in this situation, “just a parent”, they can still come on the field at half time to take part in the coaching process. NEGATIVE.
3. A father begging to be allowed on the field at half time is not pretty. “I just want to talk to my son.” NEGATIVE. “I think it could help a lot.” NICE TRY. Not going to happen.
What can I say, I am a stickler for the rules and no, they were not there to be broken but to ensure everyone has a safe and fair game on match day.
Oh don’t worry, I kept it fun and upbeat, that was a lesson hard learnt years ago, the whole catching bees with honey vs vinegar malarkey. But they knew.
Our team manager, a dynamo of organisation and while also the mother of four children is alarmingly about the width of one of my legs, loved me. Informed me I was going to be on permanent Ground Marshall duty. That it had been an ongoing issue of other parents coming onto the field during half time and that I was AWESOME.
Sorted. That whole, “I really need a job” scenario SOLVED!
Then we turn up at this weeks match and I see one of the dads pulling on the vest, my vest and look, let’s be honest, I’m a little put out. One of the other dads makes a comment about how scary I was the week before but I know he means authoritative. Someone else pipes up they thought I was on permanent duties now – I concur. He reassures me that when it’s his turn I can resume my rightful place fill in for him.
As it was, Sunday was a cracker of a game. Two very evenly matched sides in quite the battle. Felix had a blinder – more touches on the ball than I’ve seen and man, did he bulldoze his way through. It’s awesome to see your kid find their passion. At half time it was 5-nil to them. At the final siren? 17-10 to us.
Today was the funeral of a dear friend of mine’s father. He was two days shy of 62 when he finally succumbed to a long and bitter battle with kidney disease.
He was one of those men – kind, gentle, softly spoken, tough, clever and creative. The passion with which you could see he loved his beautiful wife, now bereft of her soul mate who had been by her side for the last 40 years, and their two children could honestly take your breath away.
A large part of my formative years did not feature a traditional mum, dad senario and there were friends whose families filled out that picture for me. I remember dinner’s with K’s family of Amazonian giants (seriously they’re all 6ft or taller) and being both scared, intimidated, in awe and in love with the volume and energy a dad at the dinner table brought. J’s dad was a farmer and that was another whole realm but one I just soaked up. I marvelled at how he’d yell at J and her sister in the paddock not doing whatever they were meant to be doing but then that was that, done with, forgotten. What happened in the paddock stayed in the paddock I guess. And then there was L’s dad. Beautiful man.
My faith has taken a great deal of interrogation over the last 14 years and I am in a weird twilight zone where I see the role faith can have in your life but no longer believe. Today’s service showed me, reminded me of the comfort a faith can bring in times of intense emotion.
Driving down to the service (just the other side of Wollongong) brought other memories flooding back. All the container ships sitting there off the coast. We used to stand on Nan’s verandah and count them and every Boxing Day watch the boats sail by in the Sydney to Hobart. Funny the things that stay with you.
A very dear person was at the funeral today. I had hoped she’d be there. Years ago – as in a DECADE ago – we had a dust-up on email. Stupid stupid email. It came off the back of a couple of incidents where I had behaved badly, lying to her rather than being honest and then both of us being at different place in our lives. For me I was jealous, intimidated by her and some of her friends and their confidence and comfort in their own skin. I felt like a very ugly duckling. Funny, I was always told how mature I was and yet I look back on how I let our relationship down and realise what a child I was. I found it so hard to move on from the ‘fight’, feeling self-conscious and clunky but now, I realise, I was embarrassed. GOD. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her. Not one day. I think it’s about time I pay that forward yeah?
Felix came with me today – Chef couldn’t get away from work as his boss was interstate and it was a long way to go (2+ hours each way) on my own. Can I just say, my boy? He does me proud every single day. It was the first funeral he’s ever been to and he handled it with grace and care, offering me a squeeze and a hand around my shoulders every so often. We came home on the coast road, stopping for an ice cream at Stanwell Tops and marvelling at the view back down the South Coast. He went to say it was a good day but stopped himself for obvious reasons. But you know what, with immense sadness there was peace, reconnection and time to stop and say goodbye. I think he was right.