Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Our boys may never know how to make a bed, but does it matter?:

“Your boys are so successful. There must be a reason why. Please share it with us.” I struggled with this.
By Bonita Mersiades
Date: December 06 2011
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Michael Krinke

When a friend said to me recently when talking about our respective children - vastly different in ages, as my friend and I are also - that my kids were so successful and it would be good to know the secret, I said, half in jest, that it was all due to football (soccer). 

As a family, our binding and consuming interest, our very own ‘social inclusion’, has been football. We have always done it together. They played, we managed their teams and ran their club; as a family, we would travel interstate to see the Socceroos play in crucial qualifiers; we have always actively followed a professional club wherever we’ve lived.  And, to this day, if the four of us are together – a rare occurrence as one lives overseas – one of our areas of discussion will always be football.

I don’t have any secrets to share, but I can tell you a little about our ‘boys’ who are, by now, well and truly young men.

One is a teacher living and working overseas for four out of the past five years. He is accredited as fluent in two Asian languages, has a first class honours degree in international relations with a published thesis on peacekeeping, a graduate diploma in Indonesian studies and a Masters in linguistics.  In his spare time, along with a friend, he is developing a language learning software program especially for use in schools and he has what can only be described as a somewhat fanatical interest in Australian football, including the Australians playing professionally in Japan. He has experienced two earthquakes – Jogjakarta in 2006 and Tokyo earlier this year.

The other is a medical practitioner with a first class honours degree in medical science as well as an MB BS.  From the beginning of 2012, he will embark upon training to become a specialist Physician with a minimum of two more years, but probably more, of hard work and study. He has spent most of this year alternatively working in an emergency department in a country hospital or travelling around the world for the ‘gap year’ he didn’t have when he was younger. In his spare time, he parties hard, plays hard (indoor and outdoor football) and is a good and attentive partner to his girlfriend. 

Have our boys ever done anything wrong? “Is the Pope a Catholic?” is my response.

They’ve done the usual ‘boy’ things. Drunk too much. Partied too hard. Smoked (they think I don’t know this one, but I have a good sense of smell). No doubt so much more. One of them even found himself face down on some concrete with a serious head injury not so long back – and still doesn’t remember how it happened. 

They were both influenced by the fads and fashions of their generation – the usual creepy crawlies in jars and shoeboxes, David Eddings, Ninja Turtles, David Suzuki, Aliens v Predator (let me just say, it’s a sign of parental love that one actually watches one of these movies let alone three of the dreadful things), graffiti, lighting matches, various supermodels, running the shower but not actually standing under it to get clean, anything made by Apple, The Abyss, Harry Potter movies, pirates, American basketball and the list goes on.   

They are their own, and very different, people in so many ways. 

One is private almost to the point of being secretive: conversation can be hard work, yet he also has lively insights and a keen sense of humour. He has had some unusual experiences in his life, such as full training as an Army Reserve commando going on bivouacs in the middle of nowhere and sitting up a tree for nights on end watching for the ‘enemy’; and earning an Indonesian Presidential commendation for his voluntary work after the Jogjakarta earthquake.  He played cricket, baseball and football, followed the Parramatta Eels and Brisbane Strikers and his childhood heroes were Michael Jordan, Charles Barkly, Peter Sterling, Alan Hunter and Steve Waugh.

The other is open and expansive, and could walk into a room anywhere in the world and start a conversation with anyone within a nanosecond; and yet also at times be oblivious to some parts of the world around him. In his under 10 football team, which conceded only four goals in one season and where he played in central defence, he occupied himself looking for four leaf clovers (and found them!).  But he worked throughout his eight years at university in bottle and clothes shops, as a porter at a five star hotel, as a removalist and a door-to-door knife salesman – as well as coaching and refereeing kids football and tutoring. His childhood heroes were Michael Jordan, Shawn Kemp, George Gregan, Kasey Wehrman and Kathy Watt.

In their interests and their occupational choices, they have proved to be their own men.  They are not only different from one another but also from either of us.   

So what’s the message in this?

Let your son (or daughter) be his own person. He will be different from you. He will do stupid things. He will annoy you and upset you. He will make mistakes. He will eat like several small horses when he is a teenager. He will be untidy. Very untidy. He will leave the lights on. He will probably be more lazy than anyone you’ve ever met, especially during the ‘horizontal years’ between 14-17. He never notices when the dishwasher needs emptying; wants a pat on the head if he brings the rubbish bins in; and thinks nothing of eating all but three of the Kalamata olives you had bought for guests coming to a BBQ that evening.

But all these things pass. Eventually. 

Whether he grows up to be private or expansive, a teacher or a doctor, a Reservist or a removalist, is not the true metric of his life. 

Even though our boys are their own men, what they in common is much more than what makes them different.

Young people absorb what is around them. 

They see how we (their parents) live our life; whether we treat others with respect, courtesy and dignity; how hard we work; and they get to know and understand our values. They will accept, reject and shape the metrics of their lives for themselves.

Both of them are educated and accomplished; they are intelligent and funny; they are law-abiding; they’re politically aware; they have a strong sense of justice and fairness; they treat people with kindness, courtesy and respect; they know the difference between right and wrong; they’re healthy and fit; they can both cook a decent meal; they are happy doing what they want to do; they both still follow football; and, above all, we enjoy their company as young people.

But there is one thing. 

They are both hopeless at making beds. They have a complete lack of competence in the art – not to mention a disdain for it. In this, they definitely take after their father. 

And you know what? Although I wouldn’t want them to know this, in the great scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. 

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3 Total Comments
DL says: 2011 12 05

I love this article.  Warm, inciteful & full of wisdom. A lovely article & great advice. Thank you for sharing. Your boys are lucky to have you. No wonder they’ve done so well.

NB says: 2011 12 06

so often we get wrong the measures for the ‘metrics of our lives’.  Yet if asked there is so much we share, no matter our religion, race, nationality - or incomes.  It was good to share this personal reflection.

Grace says: 2011 12 08

Great article. Full of understanding and common sense, and encouragement for me with my younger sons now. Thanks Bonita.

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