Tuesday 30 November 2010

Truth and understanding

They tell you it changes everything.

But you can't comprehend it until your child's first cry shatters whatever life you lived until then and calls you onwards to the life you have now.

It was twenty-eight minutes past nine in the morning when our little son made his mark on our lives with the official start of his own. He weighed in at 3545 grams, or 7 pounds 8 ounces in the old scale, and was 51cm long. A well formed, breathing, beautiful baby boy. And a mum, my darling wife Masumi, who was still with us after 2 days of pain and all that incredible pushing. She was magnificent. And me, relieved and amazed. All of us changed.

After we'd recovered a little from the emotion of the day, that afternoon we named him Ryo Simon. Simon after my father. Ryo as a good, solid Japanese boy's name. The character we've chosen for his name means "truth" or "understanding". We hope he'll come to seek and find both. And without realising it at the time we named him, I think those meanings rang true because we found a little of both ourselves with his birth.

The days have blurred since July. 16 weeks on, Ryo is about 8-and-a-half kilos and wearing clothes that usually fit a 12-month-old child. He's well on his way to becoming a sumo!

There's not much else to report from paradise. I guess that's the nature of becoming a parent, it's all about the kids from now on. I go to work and come home. We play and bath and feed and change our boy, catch an hour or two of time to ourselves in the evening, and do it all again the next day. But there's nothing wrong with white picket fences. It's just surprising, in some ways, to find myself actually there.

But there's plenty to look forward to. We're just about to settle on our first major purchase, a block of land here in Cairns. It's hard to say whether we'll get the chance to build on it - if we stay in Cairns for another year or two, then I'm sure we will. Dreaming about building is certainly lots of fun and a learning process. And there's no doubt that owning a house in Cairns is cheaper than buying one in the big city!

Otherwise it's Christmas with the family, Awa Odori next northern summer, whatever family time we can grab in between, and the ongoing adventure that is parenthood and life with our son.

The last couple of years it looks like I've averaged two, maybe three posts per year. Not quite the output that I had in Japan! I'll try not to let it drop any further!

Lots of love,


Friday 30 April 2010

Who's your daddy?

Explaining Easter is harder than you'd think. And there's nothing like needing to explain Easter to Japanese adults to remind you of just how different some layers of Japanese culture are to our own. Of course, it all boils down to Jesus, a long weekend and chocolate. For Masumi and I it also meant a well-timed week in Japan, possibly our last in a while.

What, a whole week? Yes, cue the conversation about how we get (and use) great holidays in Australia, whereas virtually no one would consider even asking for (let alone expecting) a whole week off work in Japan. Insert collective sigh of disbelief and game show buzzers!

But I digress. And for all the little differences, being back in Tokushima for a week was very familiar. There was dancing, rafting, sushi and shopping. We managed to catch up with just about everyone and generally have a good time, all in the midst of a beautiful cherry blossom season. The last time I'd done some hanami, Michael was touring Japan with me before I joined Happy Raft.

We'd have saved the journey for August and dancing season, but we're expecting to be a little busy this northern summer. You see, my beautiful wife is quite pregnant now. She's carried it very smoothly through the tropical summer and we're expecting to welcome a baby boy into the world in July. That's right, folks, I'm going to be a daddy!

Are we sure it's a boy? Pretty sure, so far as these things go, but you never know. In fact, I guess we were more sure before we went to Japan. The ultrasound in February seemed to be quite definitive. Last week we visited a temple in Tokushima to receive a blessing for a safe delivery. The timing was important - Masumi tells me that dogs are believed to have a positive influence over pregnancy and birth, and so the position of the dog in the Chinese astrological calendar influences which day people like to receive this blessing. Anyway, some of the paraphernalia that we get as part of that blessing is supposed to indicate the sex of the child, and apparently it's predicting a girl! Stay tuned to see whether technology or tradition will triumph!

What are we going to name him? We've got a list of candidate names that we'll take with us on the big day. They're separated into English and Japanese names. We're leaning towards a Japanese first name and English middle name. Having a long, double-barrelled surname like mine complicates things a little, as does the issue of pronouncing the names properly on both sides of the equator. Some candidates at the moment are Kousuke, Makoto, Ryou, Simon and Benjamin. Suffice to say that we'll have a reserve list of girl's names, just in case!

And just for the record, we're having the baby here in Cairns. Which is a great excuse for Masumi's mum to visit in July to help out. We'll miss the dancing in August, but we're already looking ahead to the next Obon season, where we'll be able to give our little boy his first taste of Awa Odori!

The joy in the Cooper household isn't confined to Cairns this year. As you can see from two photos on this page, we already have two new additions to the extended family. Masumi's eldest brother and his wife welcomed their third child and first daughter Aoi into the world in early March. I got some good practice in with her! Not far behind was my own brother Michael and his wife Lisa, with the first little Cooper of that generation, their baby girl Madison Rose. So cute! It's possible that our son could go to school in Australia with Madison, and maybe then in Japan with Aoi. Little ways to go before that comes about, of course! Suffice it to say that Mum and Dad are pretty happy to be made grandparents twice over in 4 months, and we're all full of the joys of growing families!

I'm still with quarantine, though I don't open bags at the moment, I'm doing some database work instead. I still play and coach chess. My kayak lies largely dormant... I might get a new paddle to encourage myself to get back out there. But the baby is the story of the year. Other than news of impending parenthood, there's really not much else to report from paradise. By the time I next get to writing, all the rest may well have changed, and I'm sure nothing will ever be the same again!

Lots of love,