Moving on

After more than two years as a dad columnist, James Gordon says goodbye

James Gordon and his son, Owen.

How old were you when your memories really started to kick in?


I’m sure that moment is a little different for all of us. I remember a handful of key moments from kindergarten – probably because starting school is such an impactful experience in every child’s life – but not much beyond that. 


Aside from a few fuzzy, blurry scenes, Grades 1, 2 and 3 weren’t all that memorable for me.


But Grade 4. Grade 4 is where it all starts to come into focus. 


I remember well the friends I was close with, and I remember what we were studying in school


I remember the growing freedom I was starting to feel, and how much I loved it. 


I remember walking home from school by myself. 


I remember it’s the first time I had a *real* crush on a girl. That’s a big one.


My eldest son, Owen, is in Grade 4 now, and I see him starting to go through some of that distancing that starts around now and continues slowly until, one day, they move away to go to university, or to get a job, or whatever direction their adventures take them in.


Perhaps that’s why our memories become so clear around this age. Having been so closely appended to our parents our whole lives, suddenly we are really starting to become our own people.


Owen loves his independence, too, maybe even more than I did (and I loved it A LOT). 


His friends will drop by if they’re heading to the store to ask if he wants to come along, or sometimes he’ll go meet them at the park.


He asks to do things like do his own laundry or make his own food. 


He adores going to hockey tournaments, probably because it makes him feel like an adult to travel and stay in a hotel and not have a parent hovering over him. Watching older kid movies that he wouldn’t be able to if his six-year-old brother were hanging around? Yes, please.


With every surprisingly funny or insightful thing he says, with every amazing thing he does as a student and an athlete, early childhood seems further and further away.


It’s a challenge for all parents, I think, knowing where or when to step back and let our kids experience that independence. Where do you continue to shelter them and where do you let them go out and try something new, even if they trip and fall?

In making those kinds of decisions, I sometimes try to draw on my own memories – including the ones that come in so clearly starting from when I was Owen’s age. 


And for that reason, I’ve decided that this will be my last column for Parenting Times.


When I started writing for this magazine, my kids were very much still appended to my wife and I. They were with us all day long (and sometimes all night long, as they went through teething or nightmares or whatever else). 


They relied on us for every bit of food they ate and every seatbelt they needed tied and every winter boot they needed to put on. As any parent of young children knows, your individuality fades away for a while as you become, essentially, a 24/7 parent-child unit.


And then those bonds slowly loosen until your children aren’t children anymore. They’ll always be your babies, of course, but no longer are they babies.


Writing for this magazine has truly been a joy and a privilege, but I have continued to do so knowing that, at some point soon, I would have to step back.


In deciding what that moment should be, I tried to think about when “cool, my parent is writing about me” might have morphed into “oh no, my parent is writing about me.”


That moment would be different for every kid, but for me, I think it would have been at some point in Grade 4.


So, it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you so much to everyone who has read my work here over the past few years. I wish you all the best as your own parenting journeys continue!