I am a father. I became one over thirty-six years ago, when my wife gave birth to our first son. It was horrible. The pain of birth, obviously, not the birth of the child itself.
We have four children, all grown up and fully independent.
Some of them even have children of their own now. Beautiful human beings, the lot. However, regardless of how well my children turned out, the journey to get there was just as harrowing as it was beautiful and fulfilling. It used to remind me (and still does) of driving in a Mini Morris along a precipitous Bolivian mountain road full of potholes and ruts and holes, full of giant rocks looming over it, vultures circling overhead on reconnaissance missions, and slashing winds that uproot vehicles, only to reach a mountaintop sanctuary full of unicorns, hot springs, poets, wonderful food and rivers of cold drinking water. Something like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change anything about my experience as a father.
I am perfectly content and satisfied, knowing that I have bestowed four beautiful human beings upon humankind.
Kind, compassionate, caring and without a modicum of hate in their bodies, I have raised my children to love and respect everyone, regardless of their financial situation, societal standing, or political beliefs. I have taught them to be as kind as possible, to be critical thinkers, never to blindly follow or give in to dogmas, never to let anyone push them around.
Blimey, I have also written almost few full paragraphs without mentioning my beautiful wife. That wouldn’t sit well with her, because, you know, she had sort of an integral part in all of this. Especially in the very beginning. I literally could not have done it without her. Yes, vice versa, but her role was much more difficult than mine was. I am still amazed sometimes at how strong women are. We will be married for thirty-nine years come June, and she still has not grown tired of me.
To everyone who knows me – what does that tell of the woman’s perseverance and fortitude?
Anyway, my birthday is coming up in a couple of days.
I will be 60 years old. Sixty summers and winters have gone by, and I have seen them all. A couple of weeks ago my children started inquiring on what I would like for my birthday. I went on and on for a couple of years about a woodworking kit, then I wanted a painting stand so I could discover how remarkably untalented I was as a painter, and lately I have taken fancy to ridiculously expensive OLED TVs. They kept asking if this was what I wanted. A TV? At first, I said ‘naturally, sure’.
As you can see, my children are very generous when it comes to their parents.
However, there was something off about the proposition. Something was especially off about the way I so vehemently accepted. After I had given it some thought, I realized that I didn’t want my children to feel like they have to buy me things in order to thank me – thank me for never buying them for myself because I was paying for their food, clothes and education. To compensate for it all, sort of. I know they meant well, but I realized I didn’t want it.
I called them each in turn and explained what I wanted for my 60th birthday, from every one of them. I told them I wanted them to keep raising their sons and daughters to the best of their abilities, to instil the little ones with the very love, kindness and empathy that I spent most of my adult life showering them with. I wanted them to be the best possible versions of themselves, day in and day out, no matter what. This may all sound corny, or idealistic, utopian, egalitarian, whatever you want to call it – but that is what I told them. They agreed.
I think I was right in doing so.
Although, there was still a conspiracy afoot, unbeknownst to me – and my children got me my £3000 TV. That’s how stubborn they are, and they take it all after their father. Not at all after their mother.
Not at all.
The point is, the people I love the most in the world gave me my greatest birthday present in non-physical form, as a promise to spread pure goodness towards other human beings, animals and their planet. I couldn’t be happier. Fatherhood is one of the best things that ever happened to me, and let me tell you, as much as I lived my life for my children, I lived it for me, too. I was a very egotistical person forty years ago, terrified of having a child – how do you fulfil your dreams when the baby is weighing you down?
As it turns out, you can. As it also turns out, that baby becomes that dream – one you never had before. For thirty-six years, birthday after birthday, I have watched my family grow, and watching them has been the greatest birthday gift one could possibly hope for. What I want for my next birthday?
The exact same thing – for my family to be healthy, smart, kind and safe.
(Only, you know, a new fishing rod and a canoe might be nice.)”