Five years ago, I wrote “Ten Little Stories About a Ten-Year-Old Boy” and since the little boy is now a broad-shouldered teenager, it’s time to list 15 short stories about him. These aren’t really stories, mostly just random facts. They have not been cleared with him, and any embarrassment caused by them is purely coincidental … and part of being a teenager.
1. Oddly enough, I’ve never coached him in sports. Oddly both because I’m Daughter’s coach in three sports and because Son, while not being interested in sports, has tried a number of them from bandy to dance to orienteering to track and field to judo to floorball to speed skating.
Basically, he likes individual sports while I’ve always chased a ball or a puck, so I don’t have the expertise to be a coach. Except for one sport. Skating. However, our local skating club has had a great coach, and since he’s a former Olympian and I’m not, I’ve voluntarily stood in the stands.
This summer, though, the coach moved out of town and Son was without a coach.
“I can be your coach,” I said.
“You’re not really a skating coach, though.”
“I’ve been at your practices, and I’ve heard what he’s told you to do. And I do know how to skate.”
“‘Stay balanced’, push, push!’,” I yelled.
We’ll see how it goes next Friday.
2. He likes hats. He’s always liked hats. Everything he does begins with the right outfit, and every outfit begins with a hat.
3. There’s one picture he doesn’t want me to show to others. It was taken at Madame Tussaud’s in London four years ago and while you’re not going to see it here, I can assure you that it’s not controversial – at all.
4. He’s a harrypotterologist. And a starwarsologian. A Donald Duck expert. And a Simpsonologist. He also knows his How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family inside out. Also, I don’t know anyone else in the world with a better ear for movie scores.
5. He is fearless. He’s performed in front of thousands of people, singing, in Sweden, Norway and Finland. He’s held speeches at school, he’s done numerous TV and radio interviews, and he’s interviewed Swedish members of the parliament and ministers. He speaks Japanese in Japan and Spanish in … well, Spain. He’s now the person I push forward to ask and take care of things for me. It used to be Wife.
6. He’s reached another milestone I never did. He’s taller than his father. I’ve waited for this moment for a long time – thanks to Son reminding me of it – wondering how I’d feel. Now that we’re here, I can tell you that I feel fantastic. And I hope he’s not going to make me pay for all those times I put him under my arm and called him my crutch.
7. He doesn’t give up. For example, if he’s made up his mind about finding a certain place in a new city, then that’s what he’ll do. He’ll walk around the city, optimistic about the distances, with Wife, Daughter and me in tow. He’ll stop people to ask for directions, and he’ll march on until he finds what he’s looking for, whether it’s the old Nintendo headquarters in Kyoto, an electronics store in Akihabara in Tokyo, a special bookstore in Glasgow, or Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco. Which is why he’s very understanding when I want to find that one special sausage place in Malmö.
8. Fun fact: He’ll never wear hair products (but he likes to say “fun fact”).
9. He reads voraciously and sometimes I think he knows too much for his age. But that’s my problem.
10. He’s a map enthusiast, a flag lover, and a geography buff. If you ever need to know that capital of a country, or the size of one country relative to another, or not only the colors of the Mozambique flag but also the colors of their previous flag and the reasons for the change, he’s your man.
11. One thing you should absolutely know about him is that he was born in Finland. That’s one of things he seems to be most proud of, probably because it makes him a little special in Sweden. Every time we drive our car off the ferry in Finland, I hear a long, happy sigh from the back seat and then an even happier greeting: “Hi there, Helsinki … my city of birth!”
12. This is one of his all-time favorite movie scenes:
13. He’s got an expensive taste with food. A few years ago when my Mom was visiting us, she treated us all to a nice dinner at a local restaurant … where Son always take the same dish. He says it’s not the most expensive one on the menu, but I doubt it. Anyway, just so happened that the next day, he went on a field trip with his class, and he took some leftovers from the day before as his lunch.
Being the nice boy that he was and is, he let his teacher have a bite.
“It’s not every day a gym teacher gets to eat lobster,” the teacher had said.
14. And yet, he’s not snobbish by any means. He’s the opposite of a snob. He’s a man of the people.
15. When Son was baptised, his godfather said a few words, and one of the things he said was that while we, as parents, were expected to teach the child how to navigate through life, the child would also teach us. Granted, I nodded even then, but obviously, being a first-time father, and a beginner at that, I didn’t really understand the depth of what he said. (Not sure if he did, either).
And here we are, fifteen years later, Wife and I and our smart, hat-loving, map-studying, YouTube-watching, never-hairwaxing young man who’s taller than me, and I think about those lessons regularly. Because he’s into politics, he challenges my views, forcing me to think through my arguments. And because he’s so funny, he forces me to take my pun game to the next level, and because he’s caring and considerate, I’ve cut down my yelling at the kids on our lawn.
Basically, I’m a better person because of him. And maybe I’ve taught him a thing or two, too. If nothing else, then at least that – like “Doc” Brown says – “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”.
And related to that, that Back to the Future is the greatest movie of all-time. He says he thinks Part III is the best one of the three, but I think he’s just saying that to tease me. Right?