Australia Day, 2016. Also Chase's 15'th birthday. View from our room at the Brisbane Marriott.
I’m looking out at the Brisbane River as I write this post.
The river holds so many memories for me.
We lived by the river in the early years of the children’s’ lives, and I still miss the daily waxing and waning, the passing traffic, the morning and afternoon walks which could always be counted on to relieve a stressful day or soothe the soul (the childrens’ or mine!)
I spent much of the night and the morning after my wedding to my children’s father watching the river wake up from our hotel suite, feeling our firstborn child kicking inside of me.
High on the excitement of our wedding day, as always troubled by insomnia, kept awake even more so by the movements of a busy unborn baby, and captivated by the view, I had so much to think about. *
As I did on the morning of Chase’s 15th birthday.
After so many changes in our lives, we were temporarily back in Brisbane where he and his sister Harmonie’s lives began.
As I once again sat beside a hotel room window and watched the city light up, I remembered how the baby who was to become the most important male in my life was a livewire even before he was born.
One of the early ultrasounds showed him doing somersaults inside of me. Arms and legs would protrude from my body at random times, like something out of the movie ‘Alien’.
Chase was an active baby from pretty much the moment he was conceived, causing all manner of adventures during pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond.
Yet, I’ll always remember those magical moments immediately after he came into the world. After all the action of labour, my newborn did not cry, but looked around calmly with liquid eyes, almost as if he recognised us.
Later, the comments we always got were: ‘He’s been here before’. And: ‘He’s an old soul’.
Certainly, Chase has a reputation for being wise beyond his years. “The little professor”, he was often described as, with at times, a sense for the dramatic. And a sense of humour that has always cracked me up.
I didn’t get to finish this post on Chase’s actual birthday, because I was too busy sharing the day with him and his sister. Coincidentally, it was also the last day before the kids went back to their other parents ahead of the start of the school year, so our time together was extra special.
As part of both their birthday presents, and to prevent yet another crazy early-morning drive to Brisbane for the airport run, I’d arranged for us to spend the day and night before in the city where they had spent so much of their lives.
That mini break holiday is a whole other post, but in the meantime, I traditionally write a piece to mark each child’s birthday. This one’s for Chase.
Happy birthday Baby. And thanks to the Brisbane Marriott staff for sending up cake and mocktails to mark the occasion.
As I mentioned, this year, Chase turned 15. As the years fly by and he grows rapidly into a young man, I found myself, once again, marveling at the surprises of parenthood. Like the fact that one of the very special things is that your children end up teaching you as much as you teach them. Perhaps more.
So I thought this year’s birthday post for Chase could focus on some of those things. (And I know all parents gush about their kids, so forgive me please. I also do my share of nagging and complaining, so I figure it works out about even in the end).
Chase’s 15th birthday messages (Ramblings of a Mumma)
- One of the first words you said after Da-Da and Mumma was ‘Dei-Dei’ for Daisy our Labrador. You also said ‘Brink’ for water and carried a water bottle with you everywhere.
- You were possibly the first unintentional baby ‘cake smasher’. When we posed you next to your christening cake for a photo, you gleefully punched your fist into it, pulled your hand out, looked at in wonder, and put it into your mouth. That’s my boy!
- You were the most engaging child. You smiled at everyone, and you were pretty much always happy. The only times you weren’t, was if there was a problem and /or you were sick. You were also a pretty good judge of character, and that’s a skill you still have.
- Dr Greg, our GP for many years, referred to you as ‘Sultana Boy’ for sucking a sultana up your nose at kindy. He wasn’t able to get it out, so I ended up having to take you to the ER, where they told me to basically push my mouth over your nose and blow it out! Just one of the many gross things I’ve had to do in the name of motherhood. Remember that when I’m old(er) and you have to do something hideous for me.
- You might remember Dragonball Z being your first TV show/DVD, but you actually loved the Wiggles and the Hooly Doolys first. If I ever hear the song ‘Pizza Pizza’ again, it will be too soon…
- You are a never-ending source of information, and never cease to surprise me.
The young man who can, without fuss, cook a barbie for a very large family reunion (with extras) and knows the exact temperature to cook the meat to ensure no one gets food poisoning. I bow down to you.
- I admire your knowledge of first aid, science, maths, chess, technology, and so many concepts that I can’t get my head around. I also wish I had your stomach and calm attitude when it comes to blood, gore, and situations where people’s safety and/or health are at risk.
Them Skills. Multi-tasking by entertaining kids, our dog Lucy, and taking photos - plus keeping an eye on the barbie - recently. (Taken at Mount Wooroolin Lookout, Kingaroy)
- I’m so proud at your diligence with school and your determination to work harder this year. I know your Dad and step-mum have played a big part in this and I thank them for that
- I’m glad that you are finding your path. But don’t be afraid to meet new challenges as they are presented. Chances are, they will always make you more confident, wiser and stronger.
- I love your quick sense of humour, your empathy, and your positive outlook on life. Try not to lose that, even when life gets tough. And when it does, remember, it will get better. It always does.
- I love that you are mindful (sometimes without realising it), and that you see things that others may miss. Like a great view, wonderful food, a photo opportunity, a person struggling in a crowd who might need help.
Taking in a view and appreciating the moment is actually being mindful. (Photo taken from the Executive Lounge of the Brisbane Marriott on Chase's 15th birthday - also Australia Day!)
- I admire how patient you are with others, like little children, animals, and my ailing mother. Even me at times! Like when you are trying to explain, yet again, the rules of chess.
Yet another game of chess, this time in the comfort of the Executive Lounge of the Brisbane Marriott Hotel. On this occasion, you did not let me beat you, but I'll get there, one day. (Maybe?)
- Keep up that appreciation for the little things that matter, like long-time friendships, family connections, our family history, caring about animals and appreciating nature.
Thanks for having the bright idea of having Pa-Pa tell you about the good old days at the Wondai Timber Museum, where he used to volunteer, and which displays some items from his family farm and former carrying business. I think you made Pa-Pa's week.
- I know that sometimes you and your sister argue, but that’s normal. I also know you care about her. (Yes you do!) Keep looking out for each other. Remember that weird saying: ‘Blood is thicker than water’? Friends and partners come and go. Siblings stick by you forever (if you want them to).
Love your sister! No one will 'get' you like she does. And vice versa. (Taken at Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand.)
- I know sometimes that we ‘have spirited discussions’. But that’s because we are very similar, and I hope we can continue to have these very honest and open talks for the rest of our lives. I enjoy them immensely. (Even if I get frustrated – at myself – that I can’t answer all your questions, know ALL the things, sometimes have to admit that I'm wrong, or agree to disagree. And that's okay. I respect your right to have an opinion that is different to mine.)
- It makes me smile when I hear some of my sayings come back at me. “You don’t have to like it, but I just ask that you give it a try”, you said a few times these holidays, when I didn’t feel like reading something out of my comfort zone, or watching something I thought I’d hate. I’ll keep trying the things you ask me to, and if I don’t, throw that statement at me. You’ll guilt me into it, I promise. It’s payback for all those times I eventually got you to eat broccoli and peas. ‘They’re little trees,’ I told you. And ‘Anthony, the Blue Wiggle, loves them.’ I owe you for that!
- While we are at it, I'm sorry for all those White Lies and Tall Stories by the way, especially the ones about wolves. I thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t realise I was potentially scarring you for life! Forgive me.
Okay, I didn't arrange for the Story Bridge to be lit up just for you. The fireworks might have been on for Australia Day also ...
- Thank you for reminding me how much I love music and that I have missed playing piano. I’ve enjoyed teaching you a few songs and I’m promising publicly to learn a few new ones, so we can have a bit of a play-off when you return in April.
- Thanks for teaching me about the man who “owns” the moon, the latest first-aid advice (I really must renew my skills), and persisting with trying to re-teach me chess. In return, I promise to continue to source cool collector, gaming, comic stores and anime shops; to continue my quest to speak up and/or send food back when orders are wrong, and to get fitter so I can hike even further without puffing on our next trip to the Bunya Mountains.
DO go chasing waterfalls! (Photo taken at the Bunya Mountains National Park)
- I am not perfect, but I promise you this: I will always strive to be the best mother I can to you and your sister, and the best person I can be,
I'm not known for my domestic goddess or cake decorating skills. I will continue to make cakes for you, but I won't make you eat them! Promise.
- It goes without saying: I’m always here for you no matter what. And nothing is too big or too bad that it can’t be worked out.
- Remember your stretches, develop your core, and always wear sunscreen.
- But please, don’t ever make me gut a fish again!
Most of all, thanks for being my son, my friend, my teacher, my muse, my heart.
I hope you had a happy birthday, and that there are many more to come.
And next time, can I have the espresso mocktail?
* By sharing these early memories, I don't mean any disrespect to Chase's other parents or their relationship. I feel very lucky that the kids have caring parents in their lives who love them very much. I just wanted to share my earliest and most recent experiences with my son to mark this milestone.