You people are savages

As a parent to a young man, part of my role is to set an example for how to behave in society and another part of my job is to provide guidance when we notice other people that aren't following the code that I've defined.

I like to think that I do an outstanding job with the former, but it's come to my attention that I may not be hitting the mark with the latter.

Anyone exposed to a toddler knows that you are on deck to answer any number of questions every day. Sometimes it can be easier to shoot out a quick response without thinking it through than to answer your little buddy asking: "Why?" another time. I've taken a shortcut sometimes and replied with a general catch-all:

          "Well Buddy, some people are just savages".

Here's an example: We find ourselves in a men's room that the previous user had left in a sorry state.  

Hudson asks me: "Dad, why it is such a mess in here?"
My response: "Well Buddy, some people are just savages".

Of course, the first time I gave him this answer, there was a barrage of additional questions; 

  • What is a savage? 
  • Why would someone act that way? 
  • Do you know who the savages are? 
  • Didn't anyone show them the right way to behave? 

This past winter, we found ourselves leaving an event on a day that the snow banks were melting. We could see the entire winter worth of trash that people had discarded and had collected into the snowbanks by the snow removal trucks all season.

Hudson, appalled at the site of so much garbage, asked: "Dad, why would people throw all their garbage into the snow?"

My lazy response: "Well Buddy, some people are just savages".

I didn't think much more about it as we walked down the street, or as we entered a hotel lobby, or hopped into the elevator with a crowd of people on our way to a parking lot.  But Hudson was still pondering.

I watched him slowly inspect every person in the elevator with us, then, with a strong and confident voice, he chastized:

"YOU PEOPLE ARE SAVAGES!"

I got a few dirty looks but, I figured, he probably wasn't wrong entirely.  One of those people probably had done something to deserve the title.  I shrugged and then hugged him into my leg.

When we got off the elevator, I explained that those likely weren't the same people who left trash in the street over the winter.  We talked about what we can do to make sure that the neighbourhood stays as clean as possible: like always using a garbage can, recycling our bottles and cans, and picking up after our dog.  

Despite some mild embarrassment, I think it was a good lesson.  

Letters to my Son - “One-and-Done”, The Only Child

When your mom and I started dating we talked about everything that was important as part of the process of getting to know each other. One of the little things that we agreed upon even before we got serious about each other was that we wanted to be able to live our lives in the city and that we wanted to be able to always maintain a certain lifestyle.

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Part of that discussion was an agreement that we were each only prepared to have one child. That would mean that we would be able to comfortably bear the costs of raising a child while providing all of our life necessities without having to sacrifice too much of our lifestyle.

Things like having university paid for by your parents would give you a leg up on the other kids who wouldn't have that same opportunity. I, for one, couldn't afford to go to school the same way that some of my friends did. My parents gave me what they could, but it was more in the form of support, food, and advice rather than the actual cash that is needed to pay for tuition and accommodations.

I had the stress of applying for government assistance to pay for school and then the ongoing stress of paying those loans back for years after I was done with school. I never finished my degree, partly because of the overwhelming feeling that I would never be able to finish paying for school. I don't want you to have that feeling. I want to be able to afford to pay for your education and give you all the things that I could never have.

Your mom and I also agreed that “one-and-done", as we would go on articulating the philosophy, would give us the opportunity to be the awesome parents that we know we can be, but also allow us to get back to having lives as individuals sooner since there wouldn't be other siblings trailing behind you.

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of course, I had some concerns about having only one child. I was the oldest of five kids and your mom was the youngest of three kids. Neither of us had any experience with what the life of an only child would be like. We both wanted to give you the best parts of our own childhoods, but quickly we realized that you wouldn't be growing up like either of us. Rather, you would have your own journey through life. Instead of trying to shoehorn our experiences into your life, we decided to just go with the flow and do whatever made the most sense for our family.

Sometimes I worry about whether you will be happy without any siblings. Having your uncle Damian around to play with always kept me out of trouble and, in fact, shaped my sense of responsibility because he always seemed to be on the verge of getting into trouble himself.

We had you around the same time that a lot of other friends had kids so I imagine that you will always have a family friend to play with growing up.

Also, I intend to spend as much time with you as possible for as long as you will let me so I hope that's healthy.

I have a Wife and a Girl Friend

First off I want everyone to know that I'm committed to my wife and we're totally in love.
But I have a girl friend.   

Eva

Eva

We recently moved from Bowmanville to the north west side of Brampton.  Originally we planned to move when Cru started school in 3 years. However, things quickly changed when Eva went back to work. The 240km daily round trip to Mississauga wasn't gonna work anymore with a toddler. Eva was missing Cru way too much. The next 40days were a bit of a whirlwind. we bought a house,  sold our first home, and moved. And just like that, everything we knew was gone. The main reason for the move was obviously to shorten Eva's commute. She went from 120km to 18km. Which has been amazing.

We met our neighbors Helen, Scott, and Elena when we first arrived. Right away they said to us they had bought a house in Georgetown, and they were moving. Like they were telling us this so we wounldnt get too attached to them. LOL. I told them we had too many friends and weren't interested into them anyway. Classic Damian.  From there we started hanging out practically every day.  Walks after dinner, late night drinks with baby monitors. Turns out Elena and Cru are only 3 days apart, which has been great for comparing every aspect of their development. Like everybody does. We all do it. "Oh, Cru's walking now," I'd say. Helen would reply "Elena's saying two words together now."  "Cru say your ABCs" Eva would say.  Helen "Elena, say your ABCs in Cantonese". Constant banter back and forth between the two families. It's been great. I think Eva and Helen have already discussed an arranged marriage for our kids. 

Cru & Elena

Cru & Elena

Helen and I started hanging out a little more when the school year ended. Helen is a teacher and of course has summers off.  At the beginning, we would bring the kids outside to play and socialize. On really hot days when the weather was too nasty for the kids to be outside we would play inside. Which was actually a pleasant surprise to see how other people live with a toddler. Disaster zone. Just like us. We would laugh about how at night when the kids go to sleep we would tidy up, then at first light, it was like a tornado had gone through the house. When Helen's sister would visit them, she would bring slippers. Helen would say "whats with the slippers?" Sisters response "there's crumbs everywhere" 

Elena, Helen, Cru, Damian

Elena, Helen, Cru, Damian

Our daily hangouts turned into grocery shopping and little adventures with the toddlers.  Our spouses seemed pretty cool with the hangouts and encouraged it. Midsummer we took the kids to Canada's wonderland. Which was surprisingly super fun for the toddlers. Lots of rides for them to go on. And they had a pretty cool park with slides and swings. We decided to take one vehicle. It just seemed to make more sense. when Cru and I picked up the girls, Helen's mom was there to see us off. As we were driving away I said to Helen "does your mom think it's weird that we're going together?" Helen says "you're the only one that thinks its weird, stop making it a big deal." Apparently, I brought this topic up way too much.  I was always asking her if her friends thought it was weird, or if Scott was cool with us hanging out. Because Eva was. In the past, I would have thought this behavior was borderline inappropriate. Especially for two married people hanging out without each other's spouses.  And I'm sure some people do think that. I think our spouses know how much the kids love just being around each other, and the importance of interaction between toddlers. I believe the reason our dynamic works is because Eva and I met Helen and Scott at the same time and became friends together.   Plus our kids love each others company.  It's not like this is some random woman I met at the park, and is some mystery to my wife. Or maybe it works because we're older now, and a little more mature, and get it. I guess whatever works right. I mean we're hanging out, our spouses are cool with it, our kids love it. 

Helen & Elena

Helen & Elena

One of our highlights from the summer was an outing to the Bramalea City Center. At this point, we're practically BFFs. We're at the food court, Cru projectile vomits Jimmy the Greek all over the floor, and me. Puke everywhere. Helen hands me a few wipes, and like it was nothing, kept filling her face with some vegan salad. I say to Helen "Eva and I break up,  who do you choose to stay friends with?" Helen while still shoveling salad in her mouth - "Eva, she's my girl."
 

Letters to my Son - Your Early Life

Hudson, moments after being born.  Weighing in at 5 lbs 3 oz.

Hudson, moments after being born.  Weighing in at 5 lbs 3 oz.

Your life started early. Six weeks early to be precise. Your Mom's placenta was fully developed at 34 weeks and no longer able to sustain your growth. She was in labour for 13 hours, ending with your birth at 4:02 am on a Sunday. The first day of your life was full of drama. On the way out, you had quite the struggle.

There were a few moments that we were anxious because of a weak heartbeat, but you fought, and your mom was strong, and you made it. We were told that you would need to be sent to another hospital, and we were worried about being apart from you but, luckily, the folks at Mt Sinai hospital in Toronto were able to work some magic to get you a spot in their NICU. If you do decide to have kids yourself and still live in Toronto when you do, I highly recommend that you look into the same hospital.

We spent the first month of your life in hospitals. Not because you were sick, but because you just weren't fully grown yet. You needed some time in an incubator to be sure that you were healthy enough to survive on your own. 

Nathan & Hudson enjoying some quality skin-to-skin time

Nathan & Hudson enjoying some quality skin-to-skin time

Your mother was with you nonstop the whole time she was at the hospital. I was there in the morning and the evenings, but I had to keep going to work during the daytime. There were signs all over the maternity floors of the hospital encouraging Mom's to have "skin-to-skin" time with their newborns to promote bonding and exchange of pheromones that help to induce breast milk production. I slightly misunderstood the signs and insisted on having skin-to-skin time with you myself every day. I was the only man doing so, and I realized that right away, but we carried on and had our one-on-one skin time every night from 9:00pm-10:00 pm.

After the first week or so we received a disturbing phone call that they were planning to move you to another hospital because you were too healthy for the Mt Sinai NICU. At first, I protested, then the doctor told me that there was another family who was in the same situation that we were in who would otherwise see their newborn shipped off to another hospital immediately after being born if we didn't agree. Since we were so grateful that someone else had made that sacrifice for us, we paid the favour forward. 

The first picture of us together.

The first picture of us together.

We went to your regularly scheduled feeding time you tried eating from a bottle for the first time before they moved you to St Michaels hospital. We were there to see you off, and we were there to receive you at the new NICU a few minutes later, and you settled in right away. The next morning we found out that you had a bit of a hard time with the transition. You developed pneumonia over night. That just meant that there was liquid in your lungs, but we had no idea why. It's possible that you got sick but, more likely, you may have ingested milk down the wrong pipe on your first feeding.

It was a bit of a setback for us all. You were fighting to get healthy, and your mom and I were paying an emotional toll just being there to watch you fight. We weren't allowed to hold you for a few days while you were recovering and that just broke our hearts. It was a stressful time in our lives, but soon enough we were able to take you home and start our lives together.

The first day you came home we went straight to the park. It was important to us that you got to see what you had been missing out of life having been cooped up in that incubator for those long weeks.

Hudson and Uncle Bone, matching outfits and nap times.

Hudson and Uncle Bone, matching outfits and nap times.

What's in a Name: CRU

People who hear the name always ask: "So where did the name Cru come from?” 

                                                                                                                     Cru

                                                                                                                     Cru

I first heard the name Cru when I was eight years old, in the 1986 cult classic movie Rad. The movie starred a very young actor by the name Bill Allen who played a small town paper boy/BMX rider named Cru Jones. That's all people know this guy (Bill Allen) from as an actor. No offence Bill, but I'm right. lol.  I mean I know everything you've ever done, like playing in a band called the Pipe Fitters with Lou Diamond Philips and being best friends with the late Brandon Lee.  But for the average person, not so much. When I tell people about the movie, I always say "you know Rebecca from Full House, she's in it." oh and "the guy who directed Smokey and Bandit. That guy directed it." So a real quick synopsis of the movie: Rad takes place in a small town called Cochrane. Cru is a paperboy and has a 1986 Mongoose BMX bicycle by his side at all times. When a BMX event (Helltrack) comes to town, Cru has to decide between taking his S.A.Ts or trying to qualify for the race. 

                        Rad 1986

                        Rad 1986

I remember the first time I saw the movie.  We had gone away on a  camping trip with the family Bonair pop-up trailer.  Leaving for a camping trip and being away for a weekend was kinda a big deal growing up in the 80s. We had a dilemma. we were going to miss Saturday morning cartoons.  80s cartoons were the best. You know it.  Not knowing at the time but Dad had set the VCR to record them for us. After the trip, of course, the first thing we did was watch the cartoons that we missed. At the end of the 4 hrs of cartoons, the VHS tape kept recording. Result; The 12 o'clock movie: Rad. We must have watched this film a hundred times, falling in love with the story and of course all the characters. 

Over the years I've met a handful of people who had also fallen in love with the movie Rad. Mike Gareau, I met in 2000 playing basketball at a local Peterborough park.   After bball, we sat and got to know each other. The movie Rad came up. Of course, the movie happened to be his favourite movie. Wow. He was a young father at the time and told me how he and his daughter Jayslyn watch Rad every fathers day together. I thought that was so "RAD". A few years back Spanky as everyone in Peterborough knows him by, surprised me with a autographed copy of Bill Allen's book "My Rad Career." Super Cool. 

                                                                          Cru Jones vs Bart Taylor

                                                                          Cru Jones vs Bart Taylor

I always thought that if I ever had a boy that his name was gonna be Cru. Only one problem; Eva. She has heard all the stories. how I love the movie, how I want to call a boy Cru if we were to have kids. "Absolutely not". That's what she said. The name means "Raw" Well, that didn't stop me, I kept pushing and pushing. No surprises here. 20 weeks we found out we were having a boy.  By this time Eva had a handful of names, and she's fallen in love with several of them. I had given up on the name Cru.  Right after we found out we were having a boy; I left for a short work trip with a long time friend; Mike Hale. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.  I told him our exciting news.  His response: "You're naming him Cru right?" I said, "Eva doesn't really dig the name".  He pushes; "Dude, you've been talking about this name for like 15 years.  You're naming him Cru." and he was serious. 

                                         Cru's Halloween Costume 2016 

                                         Cru's Halloween Costume 2016 

It took a little more convincing, but Eva finally warmed up on the name.  January 5, 2016, we made it official when we named our son Cru Kaius Greene. Now the two of us could not even imagine calling him anything else.

And to think, if dad hadn't recorded those cartoons so many years ago, I might have never seen the movie at all. Our son's name could have come from my second favourite movie: The Goonies.   We could have ended up naming our son: Chunk.

 

Back to School 2017

Hudson - First day of Grade One

Hudson - First day of Grade One

Getting back into the routine of the school year after the casual nature of the summer break is a stress for everybody.  The first day of kindergarten classes for the past two years were very organized.  We received a letter in the mail confirming which class our son would be in, and we were given instructions on where to be and who to look for when we arrived.  

Going into Grade One was a very different experience.  It's far more 'Lord of the Flies' once you've graduated from JK/SK.  

Teachers for all grades are spread around the school yard holding signs with lists of kids names on hand.  Any teacher can tell you which class your kid should be in, and while some of the teachers are new to the school, they can send you in the general direction you need to go.

It's very exciting.  Finding your new teacher is only part one.  Parents are meeting or reconnecting after the summer. Kids who haven't seen much of their friends who spent time in summer camps or out of town crowd together and try to figure out who the new kids are.

School yard pic ... "Dad, leave me alone"

School yard pic ... "Dad, leave me alone"

As a Grade one student, Hudson was far too cool now for goodbye hugs and kisses.  After finding his friends, he was thrilled to feel independent from mom and dad and eagerly chatted with his friends from the two Grade One classes that were forming lines next to each other.  I did manage to get him to smile briefly for a schoolyard picture.

Picking him up at the end of the day, I could tell immediately that he was exhausted.  I had forgotten about how much more the days took out of him. The summer daycare program was so much more casual.  Between the sheer number of kids and completely shaken up routine, I understood why Hudson wasn't feeling his usual bubbly self as I picked him up for the day.

We took a beat to gather his things and have a drink of water.  In looking around, it was clear that the maintenance staff for the school had successfully updated the colour palette of the school and given the floors a shine that would likely fade over the coming months.  The school was immaculate with fresh student name labels on all the hooks and fresh signs for class instructions, some for the kids and others clearly aimed at the parents.  

We needed a simple and fast dinner to keep us on track for the evening: Rice, Salad, and some Miami-style short ribs would do the trick.  

Welcome, Grade One. We look forward to what you have in store. 

Letters to my Son

I've been writing to my son since he was an infant.  

A typical lounging day for Hudson.

A typical lounging day for Hudson.

While I was growing up, I lost my father, and I've lived the rest of my life wondering about the kind of person that he was.  What would he have thought about things that are important to me?  Where would he stand on issues that matter to me?  How would he have handled things that I've faced?  What advice would he have had for me in specific situations?

Don't get me wrong; I had a 'Dad'.  JD Greene married my mother and adopted me as his own when I was eight years old.  He was a great role model, particularly when I became a Dad myself.   

When Hudson was born, I got to thinking about my role in his life.  I thought about what kind of father I wanted to be and how I wanted to be available to him through the important parts of his life.  I started a project where I found myself chronicling my thoughts, feelings, and future advice that I would have for him, in case something ever happened to me and I wouldn't be able to do so myself.  

The content is truly stream of consciousness writing with sharp breaks between categories.  The letters are mostly put together in a manner that makes sense, but sometimes stories are told from different perspectives.  Some sections have been edited over time with new perspectives because, as Hudson ages, I'm learning, he's learning, and the kinds of things that I think are important evolve along the way.  

I've written hundreds of thousands of words and had given instructions to two of my closest confidants where to find and how to access the entirely if anything ever happened to me.  Their instructions are to deliver the incomplete work to Hudson when he turns 18.  

Some of it is more personal than I expect I would ever be comfortable sharing in a blog environment, but some are fun and interesting enough that I would like to publish it.  I will be deploying an infrequent series called: 'Letters to my Son' that includes some of this content, starting with this post.  Maybe one day, I will put them all together as a book for him to have as a keepsake.

In the meantime, stand by for the beginning of what is shaping up to be a weekly series to get started.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan

CNE 2017

We had a great day at the CNE on Saturday.  About 5 hours was all we had and we really made the most of it. We played games, hit up some rides, explored some of the buildings, participated in a special media event for Turning Mecards and, of course, ate our fill at the Food Building.

we might have to make a return visit before it's gone!

One last hike with Dad

This is the final result of an assignment that I did while taking a course on how to use Adobe Premiere Pro.  All of the footage was taken using GoPro cameras manned by myself and my brother, Damian.  

The movie tells the story as best as I could at the time.  

This is my tribute to my late father.

Our Dad has passed

Dad Bandana.jpg

My dad was a simple man, and, I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.  He didn't care for flashy things, the latest gadgets, expensive cars, luxury vacations, designer clothes, or fancy restaurants.  He liked spending time with his family and friends, a good home cooked meal, hearing a good story, and he liked being there to be part of the next great story as it developed.

He joined our family when we were already three kids with a single mother, and he took on the role of primary breadwinner.  He never wanted to be the role of disciplinarian, but rather guide and conscience.  He taught us right from wrong, work ethic, and not to be afraid to tackle a task that you didn't have any idea what you were doing by learning from mistakes and course correcting.

When he first joined our family, he wasn't yet "Dad" but rather "Mom's friend JD".  After they had married, the habit of calling him JD was old hat, so it stuck.  Once Brett was born, he sat us older kids down for a serious conversation.  He explained that he wanted Brett to call him by a new name: "Dad", and that it would be helpful if us bigger kids would also call him "Dad" so that Brett would get the hang of it.  We quickly agreed and that was the day JD talked us into promoting him to the position of "Dad."

JD went the extra step by actually adopting the older three of us so that we could formalize our family under the same last name.  Despite being a blended family, JD never treated us that way.  He always treated all of his children as if they were his own from birth and we thank him greatly for that.

Since I had become a father 3.5 years ago, I've aspired to bring the same loving and encouraging approach to my relationship with my boy.  I can't wait until my boy is a little older to show him some of the cool stuff that Dad showed me when I was a kid.  For example, over and over I would have him to demonstrate in my bedroom before bed how eclipses work using a makeshift system of a flashlight and some balls.

JD was extremely proud to be a grandfather to Hudson and soon to be a grandfather again to my sister's child Emma, who is due in February.

He was planning to visit me the week after he passed away and I had three topics saved to talk to him about when we next met.  We never talked on the phone much so I would keep a running tally of things that I knew he would enjoy.  1) I was going to give him shit for forgetting to call me about turning my clocks back on November 2.  He used to call to remind me, and I missed that little ritual.  That and my smoke detectors had just started chirping, and I was going to blame him.  2) I had told him about my first camping trip with my boy briefly when I saw him last for lunch, but hadn't shown him the pictures or videos, so we were going to go through the slideshow. And 3) I had heard there had been discussions about him, Brett, Damian, and I making a canoe trip down the Spanish River and I wanted to do some preliminary mapping to start getting excited about the journey.

Between Dad, my grandfather, and my uncle, I was instilled with a great respect for and interest in the outdoors as a child.  As an adult, it's been hard to get out every year consistently and make substantial trips.  This sort of adventure sounded like an awesome way to get back to the roots of one of our childhood trips, and I wanted to build up some stoke early and get started on some details.

I've long been envious of the kinds of epic journeys that Dad has been able to do with his vacation time.  Whether it's canning to Moosonee, hiking the provincial parks, or driving the north highway to bring me back a 6-pack, he always came back with great stories.  I've wondered if I could even be alone with my thoughts for the amount of time that he does it.  I've imagined his solo hiking to be like a mindful meditation of sorts.

Although, maybe that's making Dad out to be far too serious.  This too, is the man that, with child-like glee, first visited my first home, ran into the kitchen to turn on the tap only to leave the water running and then jumped on the couch in my living room, pulled off his socks and threw them across the room to random corners and called out to me: "Excellent, now I get to do to your house what you've been doing to mine for 18 years!"

I love you Dad and will miss you always.

What did you guys talk about?

There are many differences between men and women. I'm not so dense that I would say that I know anything about these differences better than anyone else, but I would like to draw attention to one of the finer points that I've been noticing lately.

As the pretext, I am married to a beautiful and intelligent woman. I have been getting to know her for the last three years and she still surprises me every day with further insight into how the female mind works.

One thing that I don't think I will ever understand is why she is always disappointed with the answer to the inevitable question she asks whenever I spend time with one of my friends:

"What did you guys talk about?"

The fact is that, as men, we talked about three things while we were together:

The task at hand, including, but not limited to other times that we did that task, future instances when we plan to do that thing again, and general discussion about how to be better at that task.

What we've been up to since the last time we spent time together, including updates on previous conversations, major milestones and interesting anecdotes.

Taking the other guys to task, including telling stories that either make them out to be heroes or zeroes, arguing about the rules of engagement regarding any of the above and perpetuating any possible running jokes at someone else's expense.

Notice that at no time did I mention talking about each other's feelings, asking about details of each other's families or friends.

I usually get a barrage of questions first before the exasperated "What did you guys talk about?"

  • How is his girlfriend, wife, partner? With the corollary, if applicable, "When is he going to propose?"
  • How is he enjoying work?
  • What does he think of what's happening with so-and-so?
  • How does he feel about _______?
  • How is his mother doing since having her appendix out?
  • Is he thinking about _______?
  •  When is he going to _______?

And my answers to all of these sorts of questions are always disappointingly vague. Usually coming in the form of an "I don't know" that sounds more like "uh mn oh".

I can only imagine what this means conversations between women are like when they're alone together. In my mind, they must talk a lot about how they feel about things, about how everyone they know is doing, about how they think everyone else is feeling, what they think everyone else is thinking, and what events could potentially be happening in the near future.

If that's true ... No wonder my wife is always surprised that guys don't talk about anything.