I still enjoy seeing my boys walk down the street to catch their school bus. I don't need to accompany them, but I love to sneak a peek from our picture window as they waddle to their stop. I imagine their conversations. Sometimes they jostle, punch each other playfully. Sometimes they race to the end of the street. I can't help but smile.
They remind me of my little brother and myself.
I'm very fortunate to have a job where I can work from home most of the time. Other than some meetings, and to keep in social contact with my colleagues, I work remotely from my home office. This allows me more balance in my life. And I can contribute significantly to our household income.
I remember when my younger brother and I used to walk to and from school together. We'd trudge through the snow. Sometimes it was crunchy, sometimes icy, sometimes slippery. Sometimes we'd take different routes. Sometimes we threw snowballs at passing cars and laughed.
One time this yappy dog was loose without its owner. We taunted it a bit. It gave chase like a rabid, well, dog. We both ran like hell to the end of the street, this little terrier barking its brains out, and us two kids, pumping our legs like Ben Johnson. Finally the little runt (the dog that is) gave up.
As I write this, my brother is about to turn 43. I think more and more of the times we spent together as kids decades ago. I remember when we were about my kids' age. We'd light small fires in our room (really stupid, I know!). We put them out immediately, only a small piece of paper. One time we tried our luck in the middle of a cul-de-sac where new homes were being built. The houses were unoccupied. We gathered some twigs, paper and haphazard items.
We lit it up. Literally. Burn, baby, burn. The fire got about as tall as us before dying out. I remember marvelling at our creation but also my heart raced—pump, pump, pump—adrenaline. That was the last time I ever built a fire outside a fire pit or fireplace.
I watch my kids now. Sometimes they do stupid things that I really don't understand as an adult. But if I put myself in their shoes and look at things through a child's eyes, I understand completely. Before I ream them out, I have to remind myself to take a step back and not react out of anger.
It's not to say I don't correct them or prepare them for things. (In no way am I advocating for your kids to start fires!) But part of childhood is having some space to experiment and the freedom to learn things for yourself.
My brother and I had that space. We spent a lot of our childhood outdoors, playing sports, making our own games. One of my favourites was "bicycle polo," where we'd ride our bikes, pretend they were horses. Hockey sticks were our polo mallets.
We'd play another silly game where we jumped off our bikes onto neighbours' lawns, and let our bikes crash to the ground.
One time we were playing BMX-follow-the-leader with our neighbour. I was in the lead, my brother in the middle, neighbour in the back. I did a trick and bro wiped out. Neighbour ran him over.
We laugh about that now, but at the time bro was in a lot of pain!
So when I see my kids do things like this, my first instinct is to say something like "what the heck were you thinking?" Then I realize they need to take these risks to test their limits and see what they're capable of.
As a parent it's a bit tricky to balance between healthy risk and over-protectiveness. It's something I constantly re-evaluate.
I used to spend so much time with my brother and neighbour. We played so many sports in our cul-de-sac growing up: road hockey, football, baseball. We made up so many games. We'd use two trees in our front yard as goal posts and kick field goals through them. Water fights with hoses; garbage-can lids as shields. We ripped around on our bikes, explored every side street in the neighbourhood.
Just be home in time for supper.
One time we were playing road hockey with our dad. I took a wrist shot and broke his glasses. Oh, his nostrils flared, his voice boomed! He calmed down and realized it was an honest accident. This scene replayed itself over thirty years later with my own kids, only the culprit was a soccer ball to my face. Oh, my nostrils flared, my voice boomed! But I also calmed down, and yes, realized it was an honest accident.
My younger brother lives in another province now and I've only seen him twice in the last twelve years or so. I'm pretty terrible at keeping in touch, other than the odd email or text message. We both have our own lives. Life, you know, gets busy.
I don't know what it is, but as I get older, I think more of my childhood. A childhood that was full of camaraderie, mischief, boredom, breeziness, excitement, mistakes, learning, brotherhood, and most of all, love.
Happy birthday, bro! I miss you. The next time we see each other we'll have to go for a ride.