My 13-year-old son and I were going for a surf. After checking the beach on Coastalwatch, it was pretty obvious the waves were average. So it was as much about cleansing our souls in the Pacific than anything else. Have you noticed how most worries seem to dissolve after a dip in the ocean?
Felix packed the car: for him, the quad fin he’d found on chuck out and an old Bob Brown mal for me. For a bit of whimsey, I thought I’d throw in a board that’s been strapped to a palm tree in the back yard for the past five years as decoration. It’s a genuine, late 60’s Burford single fin. This board was rescued from a back yard in Crescent Head a few years ago, and together, Felix and I did a mongrel resto job but have never found the right conditions to try it.
Twenty minutes into the session, which was much better than we’d anticipated, I suggested Felix try the Burford. I’d had a go but was hopeless, and he’d been having a great time on the other board so I thought he’d want to keep trying to crack whatever move it was he’d been working on. Instead, he ran up the beach, dropped his uber-engineered stick and picked up this fat, old and pointy piece of history.
Watching him walk back toward the water, I thought he looked pretty cool, in the old fashioned Fonzie sense. Rubbing his hand along the rail of the board, he looked like he’d escaped from the set of Puberty Blues. And even though he had the right look going, it was his enthusiasm to try something new – or old - that actually made him cool.
Whilst he can definitely surf, he’s hardly set the world on fire, but he gets along alright and enjoys it. After a couple of waves he stopped trying to do floaters and chop hops and got the old sled going. And I mean, really got it going. After every wave he paddled out with this dopey grin and said more than once, ‘how sick is this board?’ And, again, I caught myself thinking how cool he was. Where does a 13-year-old boy get off jamming on a 60’s single fin as if he knew what he was doing?
My heart was going to burst. I was going to explode with love and adoration and pride for this fantastic kid. My kid. The cool one. It felt good, so good, I told the other bloke in the water with us how cool the kid on the bashed up single fin was.
The little bit of confidence that comes from family pride could be the fuel that drives our kids an awfully long way.
He grunted. Why wouldn’t he? So I felt like an idiot because I could see myself from his point of view. I was one of those parents - you know the ones. And no one wants to be one of them.
But why not?
Much later, I told a couple of mates about this particular day who looked at me as if I was mental. ‘Yeah, we know he can surf, mate. We’ve seen him.’
‘No, you’re missing the point. It’s not about surfing, it’s about trying something different. He looked like he was his own kid, like he didn’t care what people thought. The board’s 40-years-old and he’s not just riding it, he’s raving about it. That’s a pretty cool thing to do, isn’t it? And it’s weird that I was so proud he was able to be in that moment, like back in the ‘70’s, but here at the same time.’
‘Good one, mate. You sure you’re not back in the ‘70’s with him?’ And I felt guilty about trying to stick up for a positive opinion about one of my children. As if it wasn’t the right ‘man’ thing to do. We’re meant to keep them in check, knock ‘em on the heads, make sure they don’t get too up themselves. Give the little buggers a dose of reality so they remember who they are and where they bloody well came from because no one likes a kid who knows he’s good at something. No one likes a kid with the head the size of a pumpkin, they’re called smart-arses!
Finally, looking for some understanding, I turned to family. I mentioned it to one of my brothers. As I was finishing the story (and his eyes were glazing over) I remembered this was the brother I’d once told I thought my two daughters were possibly the loveliest kids this side of the black stump, which was met with a guffaw.
‘They are,’ I’d said. ‘And they’re gorgeous. Possibly the most gorgeous girls anywhere.’ Which made him look at his daughter. He’d misunderstood, of course. I wasn’t suggesting that his daughter was any less gorgeous or wonderful or lovely than either of mine, only that I think mine are the best – to me, obviously. Mine are the best to me. And his should be the best to him. And yours should be the best to you.
Love, love, love, right?
This is not about boring all and sundry with blow by blow accounts of how terrific your kids are, it’s more about appreciating the special moments they give us, and being confident enough to share them – especially with the kids themselves.
Be loud, be proud. The little bit of confidence that comes from family pride could be the fuel that drives our kids an awfully long way. That must be a better memory to hang on to than ‘all those times you told me I couldn’t do it,’ don’t you think?
(For the record, the board’s back strapped to the tree – maybe it wasn’t that cool, after all).