From the time Charlie was 6-months of age, Tuesday nights have been father-son time. When he was 18-months, on ‘our’ night, I took him down to the river before sunset. We wandered down over the rocks down to water’s edge together, Cha in my arms, to explore. I put him down safely, and then began throwing some rocks into the water; something I used to love doing as a boy. We stayed there, in that spot, until the sun went down, laughing, talking, playing, and bonding. It was simply magical.
From there, we walked over to the nearby Indian restaurant that we had been to quite a number of times as a family. Cha and I shared a dinner of rice, curry and naan bread. Over dinner, as he sat on my lap we talked and shared our food. I had no idea what we were creating in that moment, nor did I realise that an amazing ritual had been initiated.
The next Tuesday night, after such a deeply fulfilling experience, we did the same again. Fortunately, I could afford to do this as playing by the river is free and the Indian meal inexpensive. Again, it was a space of bonding and togetherness that was simply ours. I felt how much this meant to him, and it meant the world to me to be sharing this and creating this with my son.
So I kept it up; every Tuesday night without missing one.
The first words Charlie put to our ritual were “throw rock” and “rice and curries”. Sometimes he wanted to do this on other days, at other times, but he quickly came to understand that this was a ritual set aside for our Tuesday nights.
When Charlie turned 3, we held his birthday celebration at the same restaurant. It was his favourite place, and somewhere and something that was in his heart to share with ‘his people’. All of the family and extended family came to share this experience with Charlie on his special day. He was in his joy that night and seemed so happy that everyone loved ‘his place’ so much.
The staff at the restaurant came to know us well; they were witnessing my son grow up and our father-son relationship evolve. We would always try to choose the same table (the one in front of the glass where we could stand and wave into the kitchen). They would always engage Charlie and give him positive attention. Soon, our order (we always shared the same meal) would be known as Charlie’s order’. It always made my heart smile whenever I heard, in a strong Indian accent, “Charlie’s order, please!” being called into the kitchen. I love that the restaurant is positioned where it is. Having the beautiful river nearby and our special ‘throw rock’ spot has added another dimension to our meal sharing ritual. Spending time in nature with Charlie has been incredibly satisfying for both of us. There are so many precious memories that I have that have all been created right there. From carrying him over the rocks in my arms against my chest, to watching him learn to throw rocks himself, to witnessing (with a mix of pride and hope) him walking over the rocks by himself, to the many, many moments of laughter, love and connection that we have shared ‘just being’ together.
Charlie also chose to celebrate his 4th birthday at rice and curries – for him, there was no other place that meant as much to him as this place. Of course, it’s never been the same as that magical first time we created our ritual. But it’s been some kind of father-son bonding magic every single Tuesday night. These days, he dishes up the food for me. He delights in being ‘the provider’, and even ‘the nurturer’. I love that he has learnt the art of generosity and the joy of sharing.
It has been the most rewarding and rich experience of my life, witnessing my son grow up and developing the relationship and bond that I have with him. I’m so grateful that we have shared this ritual over these early years of his awesome little life. I never conceived that taking my son to throw rocks in the river and to an Indian restaurant every Tuesday night would end up being a prized jewel in my soul. But that’s exactly what it is, and always will be.
Darren is a fatherhood professional specialising in educating and supporting expectant and new dads. Based in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, he regularly facilitates birth preparation and fatherhood preparation courses and workshops for dads.
Article taken from Nurture Magazine, Spring 2012