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.

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.

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

Melissa & Doug Safari Floor Puzzle

After Hudson broke his arm, we needed to find things that he can do that are fun, but don't require the full use of his bum right arm.  Enter: PUZZLES!

This is a great puzzle.  The pieces are big and there are a lot of repeating patterns so it's tougher than it looks.  It took us about 45 minutes to finish it!

Too much confidence, Too little skill

Hudson getting a cast for his broken arm at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.  August 26, 2017

Hudson getting a cast for his broken arm at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.  August 26, 2017

When I was 13, I almost drowned in a wave pool in Montreal.  Not once, not twice, but three times in the same afternoon.  We were there as part of a SEVEC student exchange where I was welcomed into a home in Trois Rivieres, QC for two weeks and then my host was welcomed to my childhood home back in North Bay for two weeks.

Every day, we would go on some adventure with the entire group where we would need to help each other to communicate and grow as people.  On this particular day, our outing was to LaRonde theme park in Montreal.  

I was intrigued by the wave pool.  Nobody else from our group was interested, but I wanted to spend the afternoon coasting around in the waves.  Almost right away, the waves started, and I was having the time of my life. But I found that the pounding waves were a little too much for me.  Lucky for me, there was a lifeguard nearby who was able to throw me a lifesaving buoy.  I would guess that she was about 16 years old and she was absolutely beautiful.  She rescued me, and she pulled me along to the shallow end of the pool where she made sure I was OK before heading back to her lifeguard duty.

I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed by the waves very clearly.  It was terrifying, and while I first I tried to find it my body simply gave up, and I went weak like a dummy.  If the lifeguard hadn't been there, I'm sure I would've drowned.  You think that would be the end of the story, but it's not.  As soon as I felt strong enough I headed straight back out into that wave pool and, of course, I was again completely overwhelmed by the waves.  Lucky for me, the same lifeguard spotted me right away and saved me again.  We laughed, and I was embarrassed but OK.  Sure enough not a few minutes later I find myself waiting out into the wave pool for the third time. By now, my hero lifeguard had moved on to help someone else who was having a hard time in the pool.  This time, as the waves overwhelmed me, I was on my own.  I went under, and I remember thinking this is it.  This is how I die.  

I went completely under, and I lost track of which direction was up.  Then, as I'd given up hope and resolved that this was the end, I felt hands reach under my arms and pull me up to the surface and drag me to the shallow end.  I laughed again and thanked her for the third time, but she turned to me and said: "maybe you should go and play somewhere else for a while. The wave pool is not your friend today".

This wouldn't be the last time that I would get myself in over my head.  When I first learned how to snowboard, I was too impatient to wait for the lesson that came with my package in the afternoon.  I figured how hard can it be and I strapped on the board and headed for the top of the hill.  On my first run, I fell so hard that I'm pretty sure I dislocated my elbow.  I was in so much pain that I thought my day snowboarding would be over.  Then the lesson started a few hours later, and I decided to participate so I could learn where I had gone wrong.  I was tentative because of my tender arm, but in five minutes I discovered where I had gone wrong.  The quick tips and tricks that the instructor gave us for snowboarding were all I would've needed to hear at the beginning of the day to prevent injury and have a great day overall.  

It never occurred to me that my tendency to be over confident in my abilities before developing the necessary skill sets would be something I could pass along to my son.  Until, that is, this week when he broke his arm playing on the monkey bars.

He had been practising monkey bars for the entire summer, and he's falling off more times than I can count.  I was never particularly worried because the base underneath the monkey bars at his favourite park is a thick, soft sand.  On that fateful day, I watched him traverse the monkey bars back-and-forth twenty bars each way at least half a dozen times.  Then, I watched him do something that another child had done the day before.  He reached out instead of grabbing the next bar in the row and tried to skip a bar and go two at a time.  Between overextending himself and the change in how your body bounces when reaching that far he was able to catch the bar but not hold on.  I watched helplessly as his entire body weight swung through and he lost his balance and went tumbling towards the ground.

He landed directly on his right hand snapping his elbow back further than it's meant to.  Immediately, I jumped the fence and ran in to where he had collapsed and was now writhing in agony and grasping his arm.

After a visit to the hospital, he now has a cast.  He's not really in pain because the cast stabilizes his arm in a comfortable position.  Next week, we will be back at the orthopaedic clinic at the Hospital for Sick Kids where he will get a more permanent version of the cast.  He will be 'the kid with the cast' for the first week of school next week, and I'm sure he'll love all of the attention.

I've managed to go my entire life without learning that I need to beef up my skills before trying something new and I've hurt myself or nearly killed myself sometimes.  At this point, I'm torn between whether I should be guiding Hudson not to try things because he might get hurt and encouraging him to be like me and sometimes leap before you look.  For now, monkey bars season is over and so is scooter season and the season for playing around and not paying attention.  

Hudson will be forced to be careful to protect his arm until well into the school year.  

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!