The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Proud Father on Mother’s Day

This is one of those posts where as a father I am about to wax lyrical about my offspring. It’s the kind of entry which mothers will read and think “oh, what lovely children”, other fathers will read and think “yeah, but my kid’s better”, and people who aren’t parents will probably get bored reading as all it’s about is a dad saying that he loves his children - big deal.

Firstly I’m going to mention my son, Rogan, aged ten and three-quarters. He is an incredibly smart kid – intimidatingly so, in fact. At school he’s good at everything – from maths and reading through science and music to board games and sport. He’s good looking too – takes after his father. But more than any of these things he’s great at concepts and sideways thinking. If you have an idea, it’s always worth running it by Rogan as he will give you an angle on it you’d never have considered.

A few days ago Rogan called me up to the kitchen to ask me what I thought of his idea for a Mother’s Day gift (which is today in the UK). He’d decided that it would be nice for his mum if he were to make her a “memory box”. The concept was to make a box, divided into 4 compartments (one for each season), into which she could place memories – things she’d written down, ticket stubs etc. Then at a later date she could pull them out and enjoy the wee memories. This isn’t an idea he got from the TV or from school; this has come entirely from his own thoughts. I was amazed at the concept and immediately knew it would bring a tear to his mother’s eye (the primary purpose of any Mother’s Day card or gift), so let him talk it through and develop the idea until he was satisfied he knew what to do.

He’s been busily working on it for the past few days and sure enough when he revealed it for his Mum this morning, it produced the desired result and we had to open a fresh box of hankies. These are the moments when you can almost believe that you aren’t completely screwing up your children’s lives and must be doing something right afterall.

But Rogan doesn’t get to completely hog the limelight this week as my daughter Meg, aged eight and one twelfth has also made me sit back in awe.

Those who read this blog regularly, or have investigated the side bar, will know that Meg has Down’s Syndrome. When Meg was born and we let people know that she had DS, one of the most common reactions was to say, “Oh, I hear that they’re very loving children.” This was always said in a way that made you think it was some kind of compensation. The real message behind the language was “Oh my God, you have a mentally disabled child – your life is all but over as you will have to dedicate it to looking after a freak. I couldn’t do that myself and would have had the tests and aborted, but hey, I admire your courage. But listen, it won’t be all bad – I hear they’re very loving children!” This isn’t paranoia – any parent of a child with DS will recognise being confronted with these sentiments, even if they are not always verbalised this explicitly.

Despite what those who are ignorant of the condition fear, actually it’s no big deal. OK, so she has special educational needs and when she was a baby had to have heart surgery, but as a parent to more than one child (and stepfather to three more) you soon realise that every child has their own unique set of needs, talents and potential, and you work with it. There are times when Rogan is far harder work than Meg – don’t believe the propaganda of the eugenicists.

One of Meg’s special talents is that she is, in fact, incredibly loving, but not in a clingy, puppy kind of way. Meg takes love to new and incredible levels that leave the rest of us mere mortals behind. When Meg snuggles into you for a cuddle, she doesn’t just give you a hug; she caresses your soul. And she puts us to shame with her generosity of spirit in a way that I’ve seen in few adults, let alone 8-year-old children.

For example, a few weeks ago she came across a wee stash of chocolate bars left over from Xmas – four mini flakes. Maggie and I were both in agreement that when we were 8 we would either have devoured them without telling anyone else or lorded it over our siblings, making a point of eating the chocolate in front of them while making it perfectly clear that they wouldn’t be getting any. Meg, completely unprompted however, decided that we should all have one each. And when Rogan (with more generosity than I would have shown as a ten and three quarter year old), began to refuse, saying that she should have the chocolate herself, Meg started to get upset. Far more important to her than having the chocolate was that we all shared it together.

But the big thing this week was the teddy bear. Grandma had been in hospital for a week or two, and while there had become quite attached to a teddy that one of the nurses had placed on her bed. She was quite reluctant to leave it behind so Meg, once again completely on her own initiative, decided that Grandma could have one of hers. Maggie’s mum was out of hospital this week so when we popped over to see her yesterday, Meg took one of her teddies to give to her. As a child, wild horses would not have been able to drag one of my teddy bears away from me but for Meg, making Grandma feel better was far more important.

Like any child, Meg can be awkward, stubborn and a right pain in the arse sometimes, but unlike any other child I have ever known, she has extraordinary levels of caring, compassion and generosity, that sometimes brings a tear to her father’s eye too.


Attila The Mom said...

What a beautiful tribute to your children (and to you as parents)!

Best wishes to your wife on Mother's Day!

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post, and the flake-well we don't have those here in the states (I'm jelous) but if we did I am sure there would not be any left over in our house from Christmas.

It sounds like your son may be a bit of a chip off the old block so to speak. We too already enjoy the caressing of the soul here in our house.

Thanks for a post I can actually chime in on my long distance blogging buddy!

Meg said...

That was beautiful. Your children are lucky to have you as their father.

the anti-barney said...

As we say over here,"They didn't pick it up off the road",lovely post,Kim.

Charlie said...

A memory box sounds like an external hardrive for good memories, an excellent idea.

Kippa Herring said...

Thanks, Kim, for the sharing.
Your kids sound like the greatest :-)

Monstee said...

Hmmmm... memory box... me just may have to make one of them for me momstee when we have Momstee Day here. That am really good idea.

...or just take her out to dinner and nice move like last time.

Great post Kim. But me beg to differ on one point. As father, me did not think “yeah, but my kid's better.” Different maybe... but not better. Most of our hatchlings have they great parts that bring us love, pride and joy ...and they can all be pains in the arses. That am the nature of the beasties.

Kim Ayres said...

Atilla - thank you.

RNP - you can chime in anytime Rebecca!

Meg - well you say that because I'm careful to only write about the things that show me in a good light. I stay off the subject of the the fact that I keep them in a darkened basement most of the time... ;)

Anti-Barney - That's a saying I'll need to remember!

Charlie - you're such a man of today.

Kippa - Of course. I also found it strange that everybody else's kids were ugly little babies, but mine were the most beautiful in the world. I was certainly lucky with that!

Monstee - a momstee and hatchlings - the image of your life is getting fuller and fuller

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Lovely post, Kim. Keep this one for the memory box. You're a lucky man.

Foot Eater said...

Excellent post, Kim. I'd have more to say if I wasn't afraid to give away more about my identity.

Sven said...

You are a lucky man and a wonderful father.

Naomi said...

Great post. Your description of what goes on behind the "oh, but they're so loving" comment made me smile because you've captured it perfectly.

The memory box sounds wonderful and I think in my house as kids we'd have definitley gone for the lording it over other siblings eating the flakes very slowly and delibrately in front them.

SafeTinspector said...

Such a dad you are! Such great kids! I was the first of my 'friends' to have a child.
Most of them are still at the stage where they think I'm either
A: Crazy to give up my freedom
B: Irresponsible to add humans on an overcrowded planet.

Perhaps we are crazy, but there has been no more rewarding experience in my life than being a father, and I read the same in your post.
You are so proud, and rightfully so! And your kids should be proud of you, too.

redhead83402 said...

Gonna add my two cents here kim ~ that was a lovely post, and hits very close to home ~ I have 5 kids, and while each one can be a little turd from time to time, each one is also well worth their weight in gold. And every child is different, complex and beautiful, regardless. You and your wife sound like great parents, around here we say ~ the apple doesn't fall far from the tree ~ ;-D

Kim Ayres said...

Sam - Included in the memory box was a note my son wrote with the date on saying that he'd created it - a first memory to get the ball rolling

Foot Eater - you have my e-mail address if you prefer to write about things you'd rather not have in the public domain. I'm sure you know by now that confidentiality is assured.

Sven - A lucky father, certainly, but as for whether I'm any good, I'llnot really know that until I see how they've turned out by the time they hit 40.

Naomi - I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way about the "they're so loving" comment.

SafeTinspector - there's no doubt about it that being a dad is the greatest feeling in the world, and impossible to explain to anyone who isn't. Although one of the best books I've read about it is called Fatherhood by Peter Howarth, which is a series of men talking about what it's like.

Redhead - not heard that saying before, but I appreciate the sentiment. Thank you.

Rhonda said...

A belated happy mother's day to your wife, Kim.

I think your family is lucky to have you =)

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Rhonda. Next time they're moaning about the draconian rules I'm imposing on them I'll let them know that all these people in Blogland think I'm a great dad so they'd better buck up their opinions of me, and get me something extra special out of their pocket money when Father's Day comes round.

Somehow I can't see it working...

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