Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bean and the Family Stone

This past weekend Hunter had a lovely visit with a few members of his extended family that, due to geography and circumstance, he doesn't see all that often. While the reason for the assembly was unfortunate (an illness in the family) I was glad Bean got to catch up with his Grandparents, Great Aunt, and Great Grandmother, and they all certainly seemed appropriately charmed by the wee one's antics (which I will hopefully have photos of soon).

Watching Hunter react to his relatives was an interesting experience, especially when he reacted in ways I hadn't expected. Bean isn't traditionally very shy around people, there's usually a steady stream of comings and goings in his Mama's and my respective communities, so he is well used to being around different people. It was odd, then, to see him react with a degree of trepidation to his Great Grandmother's embrace, she being the very picture of sweet, matronly affection.

This, of course, meant nothing at all to Bean. It was unlikely that he remembered their sole meeting in the past, he without the evolved headmeats to appreciate her obvious Great Grandmotherly qualities. Being the classy lady she is, his Great Grandmother took the toddler's impudence in stride, clearly taking great pleasure in his little smile regardless of who might be holding him.

For some strange reason that had seemed, on a stupidly instinctual level, wrong to me, like the arbitrary language of the extended family should have been imprinted fundamentally on the infant's slowly developing mind, an innate sense of Great Whatever emanating from these people that were otherwise relative strangers to the young boy. Of course that is a fully ridiculous thought, but it did get me wondering what, if any, conception of 'family' Hunter might possibly have.

When he first came into our lives I think it was pretty clear, in a rather painful way: Bean needed breastfeeding above all else and that was provided by his Mama, a singular, instant, and powerful connection between the pair that took me a long time to stop feeling jealous and inadequate about. It was a huge struggle to develop a close, day-to-day relationship with Hunter that wasn't coloured by how immediately accessible a breast was, but we got there eventually.

I could assume that by doing so I am now automatically figured as 'family' in the little guy's mind, but I doubt that would make any more sense than thinking it strange that he didn't automatically register his Great Grandmother as such. I'm sure there are some that would argue that the concept of family is etched in our DNA somewhere, but if that's true I doubt we favour any one particular organization (Mum+Dad+Baby=Family, for example) over any of the others, inherently.

Take the way we might imagine Hunter seeing the people in his life; is there any reason to believe that he sees those close friends of mine, who are a constant caring presence in his and my day-to-day existence, as a subordinate relationship to one based on blood? Not to look at him, that's for sure. Watching Hunter interact with the world, as yet unmolested by preconceived notions and societal norms (well, as much as that's ever possible), it seems to lend credence to the idea of 'chosen family', that blood relations aren't afforded any kind of mythical primacy over equally caring and supportive friends in one's life.

At any rate, biological imperative notwithstanding, I'm certainly thankful Hunter has so many different, wonderful people in his life, regardless of whether he sees them every day or once in a blue moon. If you're ever in the area please don't hesitate to get in contact, we would both love to catch up with anyone who would care to do the same, whether you're family one way or the infinite others.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Bean is sick (again) with a slight cold, so he hasn't really been up to much of great interest recently. He's almost all better though, so I'll probably have something more substantial to report over the weekend. Until then, pics:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Just Another of those 365

Last week marked my second 'Father's Day' as a Dad and, to my immortal pride, Hunter completely ignored the occasion once again. I have nothing but the deepest of apathy for any of these silly greeting card holidays (in fact my little family went out for lunch and I bought Bean's Mama a meal, take that 'Father's Day').

The way I see it, I'm at least half responsible for bringing that little man, kicking and screaming all the way, into this horrible, grubby world so it's my job to forever try and make that up to him. You don't expect a parade for just doing your job.

Sentiments perhaps a little out of step with most? That might not be too surprising considering where I fit in with the Fatherhood stats issued by Statistics New Zealand for the occasion:

The average age of fathers of new babies is 33 years, but one in 100 babies has a father aged 50 years or over.
Not even close.

Today's newborn babies have fathers who are, on average, four years older than their own fathers were when they were born.
Nope again.

Fathers with children aged under a year old manage with 42 minutes less sleep than the average of 8.5 hours.
Well, that one is true enough, though I tend to manage on a whole lot less.

To coincide with those super-fun-happy-time statistics, the OECD have also just released their Doing Better for Children report that examines the well-being of children over the globe, and little old New Zealand doesn't do so terribly well:

Material conditions for Kiwi kids are relatively poor. Average family incomes are low by OECD standards and child poverty rates are high. The number of New Zealand children who lack a key set of educational possessions is above the OECD median.

In terms of child health, New Zealand has the highest rates of suicide in the OECD for youth aged 15-19. Overall child mortality is also higher than the OECD average. Immunisation rates are poor for measles (second worst in the OECD) and whooping cough (fifth worst in the OECD).

New Zealand spends less than the OECD average on young children and much less than it does on older children. Spending more on young children is more likely to generate positive changes and, indeed, is likely to be fairer for the more disadvantaged children. based on international evidence, the OECD concludes that New Zealand should spend considerably more on younger disadvantaged children. Equally, the New Zealand Government should ensure that current high rates of spending on older children are much more effective in meeting the needs of the disadvantaged amongst them.
Go on and take a day off to pat yourself on the back if you really want, but don't waste too much time on the hallmark-enforced self-aggrandising, we clearly have a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mic check.

Well, cam check. Just a couple of shots to make sure I haven't cocked up any part of the process of using this new camera:

Alright, signal's coming through. More soon.