The Unspoken Language of Love.

On Sunday, when we celebrated our son’s 11th Birthday, it was about so much more than cake, presents and even the much anticipated party. It was a golden opportunity to show our son how much we love and cherish him and for him to sparkle like a diamond in the candlelight. There’s nothing like your birthday!

If you read my last post, you’ll understand that celebrations have become quite a production and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon finds its way to Broadway or London’s West End.

I’ve already dealt with the cake.

Now, we’re onto the presents…or THE present, in particular. You see, I gave Mister a second-hand Australian Army uniform, which I chanced upon at a local opportunity or thrift shop.

Choosing gifts is something I take pretty seriously. I really do try to slip inside someone else’s skin, walk around in their shoes, see the world through their eyes and their soul to find that “Wow thing”. That thing which makes their heart sing. Not only because they love it but also because they know I understand. I get them. This gift, therefore, somehow reflects that very special, often concealed inner self or perhaps the seeds of that very precious dream, which are just waiting to germinate, flourish and grow yet are still so tender, tentative and so very embryonic.

To put it simply, gift giving is a great way to show empathy, which is such an important component of love. It is the life-giving force which enables us to grow and reach for the stars.

After all, don’t we all know it when someone gives us something which misses the mark entirely or when our significant other gives us something so impersonal that it could’ve come from a stranger? These gifts affect us in a different way, so often stabbing a knife through the heart. Quite bluntly, they clearly don’t understand you at all!!

A happy birthday boy!

A happy birthday boy!

Although I don’t always find that perfect present which fulfills all these hopes and expectations, I did find the perfect gift for Mister and I couldn’t wait to see his response. As I mentioned, I bought Mister an Australian Army uniform I chanced upon at the op shop. Mister wants to join the army when he grows up and although I’m not keen, I pushed my own feelings aside and supported my son. Of course, the uniform is  way too big but dreams are like that at the start. We have to grow into them.

Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what’s important.

Elle Macpherson

More than just being an army uniform, this was a very special birthday present from me to him. It said I can put my values and desires aside to respect and nurture his dreams and encourage him to grow up and be himself, rather than trying to shape and mold him into who or what I think he should be and, in effect, turn him into a bonsai…a pruned and shrunk down version of who he was meant to be.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

You see, in my youth I was pretty opposed to armies, war and battles. I even took part in protests against Australia’s involvement in the Gulf War and marched through the streets. I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist but I’d definitely be of the view: “Make love not war”.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

I’m also a person who, at least I hope, has principles and have built up something called “character”. This means having values and standing up for what I believe in. Before the kids were born, for example, there were going to be no Barbies, no guns and definitely no signing up and joining the army. But as much as you bring up your children, they also modify you and seeing pure happiness and joy glowing on your child’s precious face does tinker with these values a bit. Or, at least, it does for me.

Hate to admit it but a persistent campaign of incessant nagging by your kids can also make an impact on all you held dear as well!

Mister was thrilled when he opened up his present. He was so happy with such an enormous smile that he was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I was happy too.  Both kids held  the uniform up against themselves and it looked ridiculously big, reminding me of a comedy sketch from Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers:

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

I’m sure Mister didn’t appreciate what giving him that army uniform represented. Of course, he doesn’t know just what a seismic shift it is for me to embrace his love of the army. While I love any form of history and honour our ex-service people and collect memorabilia and books from WWI and WWII, that’s very different from having your one and only beloved son go and sign up. That possibility, though still a long way off, does trouble me a bit because I was also his age once and that was when I decided to become a writer and I’ve never veered off course. Writing is like breathing and I even write in myself. Actually, truth be told, I’m often writing when I should be asleep!! I knew that’s who I was when I was 10 and it was set in stone.

However, as much as I have marched and protested going to war, I also felt it was important that I support my son in how he sees himself and in pursuing his dreams. Recognising who he is as a person and empowering him to walk in his own shoes instead of trying to impose me or my values on him like an iron on transfer. Just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean their dreams and values aren’t precious and worthy of recognition and respect, even if we would rather they pursued a different path. Our children need to know they can trust us with their dreams and aspirations. After all, they come from the very heart of the soul and are so very, very precious and need to be handled with kid gloves … certainly not ridiculed or rejected. That, would be like stomping on the precious wings of a beautiful butterfly which, having just emerged from its chrysalis and waited for its tender wings to dry, is about to take its first tenuous flight…and this is your child who is so much more worthy than that.

So I gave him the army uniform and made him happy.

So happy that he took the army uniform to school on Monday, particularly to show his teacher whose son is in the army. He was as proud of punch and he truly respects all that the uniform stands for and what it means to fight for your country. Well, as much as you can when you’re an 11 year old kid and war is on the other side of the world and it’s not in your own backyard.

So I managed to get it right.

Or did I?

After all, was it just coincidence that I strayed across that army uniform in the op shop or was it meant to be? Serendipity? God? Destiny fate?

This isn’t just an erroneous question. I am an op shop addict and I have never seen an army uniform for sale in an op shop before and yet there it was just a couple of weeks before Mister’s birthday. As much as I might have decided to stretch myself well beyond my comfort zone to encourage his dreams, I also suspect I was nudged.


Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.

Maria Shriver

By the way, I should point out that while I was protesting, Geoff’s brother was actually in the Australian army and Mister has grown up with Uncle Terry’s slouch hat in the house. Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French died in France during WWI and we have been down to the Australian War Memorial as a family to honour him and we even participated in a special memorial service they hold each day and we laid down a wreath. Another Great Uncle served in Gallipolli and went on to serve in Beersheba in the Australian Light Horse. So it would seem that joining the Armed Forces are in my son’s blood.

xx Rowena

PS A week after Mister’s birthday while I’m sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send as a post birthday present to my son:

11 thoughts on “The Unspoken Language of Love.

  1. Laurie Buchanan

    The love and affirmation, the respect you show for their dreams, are ingredients that will serve your family well as they continue to grow into the amazing adults you are currently nurturing and cultivating. My hat is off to you!

  2. merrildsmith

    I think your son knows how much you love him, even if he doesn’t fully understand all the mental gyrations you’ve gone through. 🙂 My peace loving vegetarian since third grade daughter is marrying a veteran who was deployed three times in Iraq and Afghanistan. I never could have predicted that, but they are perfect for each other. You don’t know what life will bring.

    Your purchase of the uniform also reminds me of my nephew. A few years ago, when he was about 8, I think, he was obsessed with the Titanic and all he wanted for his birthday was a tuxedo, so his parents bought him one, and he was thrilled.

  3. roweeee Post author

    I think that was the idea this morning when he’d lost his school shoe and was playing Minecraft on my computer. He’s lucky I didn’t find it first. It would have made a good missile. So much for being the warm, caring parent!!

  4. roweeee Post author

    Good morning, Merril. Feeling a bit bleary eyed this morning after scouring the house for my son’s missing school shoe. Why those things don’t come with remote tracking is beyond me?!! Obviously, this is not the first time this has happened and what’s more he wasn’t happy because his sister is staying home. We’ve been filling her up with gluten before the endoscopy tomorrow and she’s not looking good.
    I love the story of the “Vegetarian & the Veteran”. When I was younger, I didn’t realise that these two seemingly disparate groups could actually be on the same side but using different strategies. Both are actively trying to save the world.
    Living with a vegetarian, you’ll laugh at this scenario. We are used to catering for vegetarians but last night my son had a friend over who was a carnivore and doesn’t eat fruit or veggies. This was an interesting scenario I hadn’t prepared for. My husband is very old school. He tells this kid in our house you eat what’s on your plate and you’re allowed to leave one vegetable. Well, I was a bit more compassionate and figured he’d eat the roast potato and didn’t stretch him any further. The whole experience also made me realise how important it is for kids to eat at each others’ houses and experience how different families live to expand their horizons.
    I loved the story of your nephew with the tuxedo and you think about the different ways his parents could have responded and what a differenc4e it made that they went ahead and bought it.
    By the way, at the time, I used to work with a young woman who was married who had an absolute obsession with Leonardo Di Caprio. That was another part of the Titanic experience.
    Hope you are having a wonderful day!
    Best wishes,

  5. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Laurie. These successes are also good deposits into their love bank account so that when you inevitably screw up, they’re not traveling on empty and can burn some reserves.
    I have been thinking about what you say about choosing what you don’t change. So true. It can be hard when you’re swamped and overwhelmed but for all of us there’s usually a breather when we can do a little catch up. Also, we don’t have to go it alone either. We can call in reinforcements to lighten he load.

  6. Louise

    My sister-in-law is a rock star at choosing gifts. I’d never thought of it as a way to show empathy though – I’ll remember that the next time I go hunting!

    And I love that you got your son something you knew he would love despite the feelings it brought for you and that you could move past that for something for him. Beautifully done. So glad you found and he enjoyed the gift!

  7. roweeee Post author

    Hi Louise,
    My extended family does a Kris Kringle present exchange each Christmas. I love it, even though it can be seriously challenging, because it forces me to focus on that person and try to get into their shoes. I bought one aunty a scarf one year and she loved it. Her family told me that I did very well because she’s notoriously difficult to buy for. I don’t know if there is a present muse out there but it worked.

  8. Louise

    Well done! My family is rather notoriously pragmatic – I tend to buy cognac (brand of choice) for both my parents and call t day on birthdays and holidays. I got the impression this rather horrified my sister-in-law and I take the point that a bit of creative thought goes a long way.

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