Perspective comes with time. And with having kids.
My boy is at the age (two and a bit) when he is starting to ask me what everything is. We ride by a excavator scoop and he asks and I explain. Then we see a dump truck, he asks and I explain. Then he sees a scratch on a drawing in one of the books I read him, and I’m not sure what to explain. It’s just a scratch. Not everything is something super important, or even meant to be there. He just stares intently at the scratch.
More and more he’s asking me to point out what’s what in the world. He’s looking to me for guidance. I’m his father and I should know. But I really don’t. I don’t know nearly enough for him to walk around the world asking me what things are, I barely know what’s happening most of the time.
This makes me think of parents in general. We’re all faking it, aren’t we? I mean, we always felt like we were faking being adults to begin with but once you add a child into the mix we realise we’re just trying to get from moment to moment without ruining our kids.
It makes me think of my own father.
I remember one summer he and my mother planted a garden in the backyard. It was orderly and neat. Rows of Swiss chard, tomatoes, strawberries and beets in the centre, a perimeter of apple and peach trees and a row of raspberry bushes. It was a nice little garden. It didn’t stay like that.
The next year the strawberries invaded the Swiss chard, and the apple trees got choked out by the ambitious growth of the raspberries. And that was the way it went.
Every year it got less and less orderly. Until eventually the raspberries had taken over half the backyard, the strawberries had gone completely feral no longer growing large fruit but tiny berries that only the birds would eat. And the apple trees were bare.
The backyard was such a disaster that my mother refused to go back there into the wilds. And indeed the raspberry bushes had become so dense that you could disappear into them. The backyard was indeed wild. And I loved it.
Those summer days in July when I could go out every second day and come back with a giant bowl of fresh raspberries was incredible. I’d vanish into the raspberry bushes and sit in the dirt eating raspberries right off the bush and no one would even know I was there. Blue sky days when the sun felt like it would shine down forever, and me with a big bowl of raspberries, eating them on the wooden deck, reading comic books. Those are some of the best days of my childhood – indeed, they might be some of the best days of my life. We’ll have to see how the rest of that goes.
But this triumph of childhood was ultimately my father’s failing – my dad’s inability to maintain an orderly and productive garden. The raspberries that I loved, my mother hated because her backyard wasn’t a backyard, it was a mishmash of bushes and apple trees that never had any apples.
This is what I think of when I look at my son. He looks to me for all the answers. Just like I looked to my father, just as we all looked to our parents to show us the way. And a lot of times parents are barely scraping by ourselves.
If my father’s inability to maintain a neat garden taught me anything, it’s that no one has all the answers, even if our kids want us to have them. Even if we wanted our parents to have them.
But not having the answers is all right. Because just like the mess of my father’s garden, sometimes the best moments come from mistakes. I’m sure I’ll be telling my boy this at some point in his life: The best moments come from mistakes. I just hope he’ll believe me.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.