I’m five days into a vacation on Kauai with Maxx.

We’re staying with a good friend of mine who is the mother of three beautiful daughters who are now off living their own lives. The oldest was here visiting just before Maxx and I arrived. My friend has been agonizing about the relationship that her daughter is in, and is wondering how much her parenting impacted her daughter’s relationship choice.

It’s an intruiging conversation. As our children transition from childhood, into their teens, and then off into their adult lives, how much of their life choices can we take credit for, or accept the burden of responsibility for?

We’re staying with my friend in this beautiful house that she shares with roommates, and have enjoyed several shared dinners since we’ve arrived. Maxx has impressed everyone by jumping up after our meal, clearing dishes, wiping counters, loading the dishwasher. I know that my husband can fully take credit for that, as he’s patiently and consistently held Maxx to a level of accountability for completing that task efficiently.

I reflect upon Maxx’s many gal friends, and his ability to comfortably communicate with them, and his ability to converse with the parents of all his friends and wonder – is that nature or nurture? I’m a natural communicator, have woven that skill into my professional life, and savour the deep, open communication that my son and I share.

On this trip, Maxx became entranced with the ukulele. One of the housemates is a skilled uke player, and our first day here, he showed Maxx a few chords. Later that day Maxx and I were at a shop that sold ukulele’s, and we discovered that they had a few instruments available to rent. I chose to spend the money to rent him one for four days, and he’s played it almost constantly since then.

When I imagine the unknown future, I now wonder – will this instrument be woven into the fabric of his life? Will he be serenading those gals he’s so comfortable chatting with, like his island musical mentor?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own parents lately, and their influence on my life. My dad passed away when I was in my early 20’s, but he had a profound influence on my life in so many ways – both positive and negative. One of the most powerful memories I have, is of my dad taking me to the waterfront in Windsor Ontario during the 1967 race riots in Detroit, to witness history, to smell the smoke, hear the sirens and to feel the fear and anger. I was only six years old, but he explained the situation clearly enough for me to understand what was happening, and that image played out in my memory again and again during Barack Obama’s rise to presidency. What a transition I was blessed to witness during my lifetime, and how amazing that my dad thought it important enough to take his six year old daughter to the front lines of history in the making, against his wife’s wishes. My dad’s experiences as a teenage immigrant to Canada influenced his parenting. His stories, and the experience he exposed me to on that memorable day in ’67 infused me with racial tolerance, and cultural curiosity.

I’m consciously sharing that with my son, and see him being a compassionate, inclusive young man, much to my delight.

I’m so grateful to have this time with him on this beautiful island of Kaua’i. He’s an amazing traveling companion, open to new experiences, meeting new people, making new friends. He’s so enamored with the beauty of this place, that yesterday he became quite emotional at the prospect of leaving in a couple days. He’s also quite disappointed that the weather’s been so lousy that he hasn’t gained a tropical tan yet, so that partly influenced his emotional meltdown. But on a deeper level, we were about to purchase the ukulele we’d rented for a few days, and he was holding this instrument he’d fallen in love with, looking around at the waterfalls streaming down the mountains surrounding Hanalei Bay and was momentarily overwhelmed with the beauty of it, the experience of it.

How blessed am I to be have the opportunity to nurture his passionate love for nature, and for music.

I’m happy to take credit for that.


Maxx and Josh - jamming

Maxx and Josh - jamming

(Josh is the one who can truly take credit for Maxx’s newfound passion for the ukulele).