The word “bittersweet” is defined as something that contains a mixture of happiness and sadness. Growing up, I didn’t really know what it meant and it was only when I became a parent that I could truly understand this word.
For me and my wife, the meaning of that word was driven home when Louis reached the age of about 10 or 11. In the past, my wife and I would get lots of kisses from Louis as he went off to school. Now it’s a wave and a “see ya tonight”. Whereas I could count on Louis to hold my hand as we crossed the street together, he tells me that he’s too old for that now. The ultimate kicker came the other day when I dropped him off at the airport so he could go on his school excursion. “Dad, please don’t embarrass me at the airport.” It was at that moment I realised my son is growing up and I have to give him the “space” he needs to find himself and to find his own way.
I think I’m dealing with this turn of life okay, but my wife is another matter. When we’re at home as a family, she gets the usual hugs and kisses from Louis. But when Louis is playing video games or when one of his friends is spending the night, she is denied affection and goes into withdrawal. She chases her favourite cat (we have two, one from Singapore and one from Hong Kong) trying to get a hug, comes into my home office in search of a hug, and finally just sits down, looks me in the eye, and says that one day I will have to get her a chubby Labrador puppy that she can hug and kiss all the time.
I guess it’s those maternal hormones kicking in and maybe we should have had another kid, but I kind of like the idea of getting a dog, except for the fact that I’m the one that will have to wake up early to take it out to do its business and feed it. And since I work from home, I’ll probably bond most with the dog as it’ll be sitting in my office with me as I write and edit.
In a way it’s ironic and a little funny because I remember being the same way as Louis when I was growing up. My family was never really big on hugging and it was only when I married my lovely French wife that I came to really appreciate the hugs and kisses that are standard fare whenever we travel to France to see my in-laws.
I know that one day in the future, when I am an old man with a cane, Louis will take my hand as we cross the street or greet me with a hug and a kiss. Until then, we’ll just have to live with the bittersweet memories of when he was younger and kisses and hugs were freely given. Anyone know where I can get a chubby Labrador puppy?
Matthew Driskill is an award-winning journalist, multimedia entrepreneur and part-time university lecturer who has lived and worked throughout Asia, Europe and the US. He is the CEO of Wildcat Productions, a Singapore-based content production company helping clients spread the word globally with original content and programming. Learn more at www.matt-driskill.com.