Another kind of upbringing

Riley grows up in a different type of household than his father Chris Hunt did. Here’s why both are great, our columnist explains

Riley Hunt

My son Riley stared at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror, his toothbrush an inch from his lips.  His blue eyes twinkled beneath his brow as he contemplated an unspoken question. 

“Daddy?”  His voice was drenched with concern.

“Yeah, buddy?” 

“Is tomorrow Gym Day?”  His voice was quiet, but there was a hint of urgency embedded within.  He wanted to know because he wanted to play Battleship, a game similar to dodgeball but where the aim is to hit targets instead of children. It’s his favourite gym game.  His eyes lit up as he explained why.

“So Daddy, last time I played I accidentally did something.  On purpose.  I threw a ball in my friends’ faces.  Twice.”

He described in exuberant detail that both he and his teammate had a ball and was aiming for a target that was being well-defended.

Ever the clever tactician, Riley decided the best way to distract the opposing team was with sudden blunt force trauma to their tiny little faces.

The upbringing Riley is enjoying is far different than the one I had.  Mine was what some people would consider a “classic” childhood.  I grew up with a multitude of siblings and my dad went to work each day while my mom stayed home.

Because I lived next to my school, I could sleep in until just before scholastic day started.  There was no daycare for me, and no lunch bag either.  I’d just walk home where a hot lunch was waiting for me.  While I ate, my mother would ask about my day.  Well, in between commercials anyway.  The Pink Panther cartoon was a favourite of ours.

Most of my friends had the same experience, so I just considered such a life as normal.  In retrospect, maybe I was just lucky.  Regardless, it’s a different story for Riley.

The son of two working parents, he’s usually dropped off at daycare before the sun is up.  Often, he isn’t picked up until well after the sun has started to set and the only hot lunch he gets is during pizza day.

I’m not sure if this is the new normal for most modern families, but it’s certainly true for us.

His mother and I work very hard to ensure he has everything he may need for today and for whatever the future may hold for him.  But sometimes I feel as though his life is passing me by, that I work so much I’m missing all the little things in his life.

That’s why I cherish those quiet day-to-day moments where he and I can just talk.  At least once a month, I take a day off work so I can pick him up from school.  It was during these walks I found out he had his first crush at the ripe old age of seven years old.  It’s also where I get to catch up on the savage drama of second grade, where friendships begin and end so fast it makes Game of Thrones seem tame.

But the bathroom routine is my favourite.  It’s usually the time he brings up the things on his mind.  Like gym.

I asked him if he got in trouble for hitting his friends in their faces.  He laughed.  Yep, he said.  They told on him, but he said it in such a way that he deemed his punishment worth it.

So, I asked him if he won.

He smiled wide.  One didn’t need to be a clinical psychiatrist to discern the pride in his eyes.

“We almost won!”