There was a big soccer match last night. HH had two of his friends over to watch. I went to bed thirty minutes into the first half. I hadn’t slept well the night before and just pooped out. They must have been very quiet because I didn’t hear a thing. It also helped (the cause of my sleep at any rate) that the game didn’t provide and scores for our side (Dortmund) so there were no resulting screams and demonstrations following a goal. The other side scored two (Real Madrid) but they weren’t enough to prevail in the semi-finals and now Dortmund will go on to challenge the winner of tonight’s Bayern v. Barcelona match. This I will try to watch. I don’t know at this early hour if the boys will be back over again tonight. The following day is not a holiday like today. May 1st is a national holiday in much of Europe so last night was a perfect night for the boys to whoop and holler and stay up late.
My wife and I couldn’t help smiling and laughing as we observed HH and his mates on the daybed watching the match. I watched them more than I watched the match – it was much more interesting to me. HH was fully engaged, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He loves watching sports – nothing that was ever important to me - and in that respect his engagement with sports is something of a relief. He’s not a carbon-copy of his father – thank you Great Spirit!
I’ve spent a lot of time with HH – more than most fathers. For most of his first nine years, I have been his primary parent. His mother was often away for work and my work permits me to be at home much of the time. I have it on authority that my wife didn’t select me at random. She is a bit younger than I am and is a beautiful and successful woman. It was her idea to have a child with me. I was 50 and divorced and the idea of getting married and starting a family was just about the last thing on my mind. But my wife had other ideas and she has a way of getting what she wants. I will be eternally grateful to her for having the faith to entrust our child to my stewardship.
She is also a wonderful mother. HH adores her and the two of them share a love of sports. He is fully bilingual but we live in Germany and he speaks more German than he does English. When he is with his mother, the conversation is always in German and often I find myself left behind in the conversation, if not excluded. It doesn’t really bother me. It is only annoying when he surreptitiously tries to maneuver extra TV time.
I’ve spent thousands of hours with my son. We have played together, creating entire communities of imaginary characters that peopled our world for many years. Those characters have faded into the background and his friends at school and in the choir now occupy the premier position in his life. His mother has come home and is now with us nearly every day and that has brought changes as well. Sometimes I feel marginalized but I believe it is a good thing. HH is having the chance, as one period in his life ends and another begins, to have his mother and his father with him and he is the richer for it. And our family is the richer for it. And I am relieved.
There are times when I feel my influence over my son might be too strong. I am a far from perfect man and the last thing I want is for my son to be burdened with my faults. I often replay that old adage, ‘an apple never falls far from the tree.’ It may have some truth in it, but I am convinced that HH is his own man and his love of sports is evidence to me that he can and will make his own decisions in life. He will no doubt be influenced by me, that is unavoidable, but for the most part I feel good about the way he was raised for his first nine years. They were important years and they were rich years. Now, I look forward to learning from him. There has always been a strong dialogue in our relationship but as he approaches puberty, he is becoming more reticent. I expected that and it will be a challenge and a joy to have the mental room to listen to him more sensitively as he is now able, albeit reluctant, to share his thoughts.
I am also relieved to be off the near solo watch I have been keeping. It takes a toll. There were too many nights when HH was sick with something I couldn’t quite identify and I had to call or visit the emergency room and engage in German with the attendant nurse or doctor. Thankfully, most young Germans speak some English. But it was the fact of being alone here in the middle of the night with a sick child that really got to me. I came to have a new and profound appreciation of the challenges facing a single parent.
And even though our situation was far removed from the realities of war or starvation or rampant disease, I also felt a powerful connection with the billions of us on this planet who fear for their child’s well-being. Nothing I experienced could compare with a parent desperately trying to protect their child in a war zone, but I made that mental stretch from this chair in my kitchen at 4AM, alone and fearful that my son had contracted meningitis again or was bleeding internally following a severe blow to his chest when he fell from his bike earlier in the day. So I am relieved.
Two of us brought a third life into this world and life is better when three we are together.
May 1, 2013