Saturday, 30 January 2010

Introducing My Son, Tony

Tony, aged about three, on his grandmother's knee.

Now aged four and serious, with a tank as birthday present.

Cat's sister, Yut, plucks a chicken for the party.

Grating one of our big crop of coconuts.

Amnuay, still looking elegant as she scrapes the spuds.

A wall of speakers fit to drown all hope of conversation.

The disco king who's come to make it a special Thai evening.

They all remember Tony's party as the event of the year.

Our local teachers are always like this, even at school.

The farang always sit and eat at tables,

But the Thais prefer mats on the floor.

In our family pictures on this blog you may have noticed a little boy reappearing from time and wondered who he might be.

My personal life in our Isaan village with my Thai wife, Cat, became very public something over a year ago when I published our story as a book called, “MY THAI GIRL AND I”. This tells of our first five years together and what it’s like for an old stager like me to settle down in a remote rice farming community with an energetic wife half my age.

One of the limitations in writing the book and these subsequent blogs has been trying to respect my Thai family’s privacy. While I’m free to blow my own cover, I’ve had to think more carefully about theirs.

For similar reasons I haven’t yet told you about the little boy in the pictures but now I feel that I should. We’ve just celebrated his fourth birthday, his name is Anthony, or ‘Tony’, and Cat and I have recently completed the complex process of adopting him in Bangkok.

My adult children, Anna and Mike, are in their thirties and so now they have a little brother, even if too far away, while I find myself the wrong side of sixty with a four year old who calls me Daddy, and very happy I am about it too.

Needless to say, Tony is a delightful child and I cannot now imagine life without him. He’s a tireless ball of energy and full of the joys of spring. He’s constantly observing and analysing everything and, like an ever expanding sponge, absorbing all he sees around him. It’s remarkable to watch him as he develops, equipping himself with all the complex skills necessary for survival.

He came to us when he was only a few weeks old and so he knows nothing else but us. Cat’s family has received him warmly and they cherish him as one of their own, and in that he’s very lucky indeed. Childhood in a village such as this is idyllic as there’s warmth and space and he can run freely without facing too many risks. In a farming community there are always people around and he always has friends to play with. It’s open house all day long, doors are never closed and he has constant stimulus from a wide extended family.

In the West we barricade ourselves inside our claustrophobic nuclear families, presumably so-called because at any time they’ll destructively explode. In Asia all is open and welcoming which makes the Thais the way they are and ensures that this truly is the Land of Smiles.

We’ve just held Tony’s fourth birthday party and it was a big village event with everyone invited. Because they’re busy in the fields with the cows and buffaloes until evening, it has to be a late party and the adults come too. All day there’s food to be prepared, chickens to pluck, coconuts to be taken from the trees and grated, roots to peel. All is hectic activity and fun.

And of course there’s music, which has to be mega-loud. Music-man arrives in a pickup and spends all day setting up a wall of speakers and a stack of electronic boxes with complex knobs and wires streaming out of them. Apart from the fact they’re outside in the open, this is music to raise the roof. It’s so loud it reverberates as it hits my chest but, despite the mountains of woofers and gizmos, the sound quality is excruciating, as is the karaoke that follows.

The garden soon fills up with visitors. A few farang and friends sit at tables, the Thais on mats on the grass. There are of course balloons and presents and a technicolour birthday cake, with food and alcohol in abundance and that’s all just how it ought to be. Thai parties are an extravaganza and ours for Tony was no exception.

I can hardly believe that we’ve now steered him safely through his first four years and that he’s got a Thai passport with a grinning picture and the name, Anthony Hicks. Like raising my own kids, this has to be one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

For me at my age, facing up to baby feeds and nappies and to sleepless nights was a bit of a shock, though it came quite naturally, a bit like riding a bicycle again. And of course this time around it’s been so much easier. Three decades ago, having two babies and two demanding full-time job was always hard, so now with neither of us in formal work and with so many supporters, all desperate to hold the baby, it’s been relatively easy. Mummy and Daddy are usually at home for Tony and the family have been giving him a perfect childhood.

There’s even a little infant school at a local temple and he goes when he wants to and when he doesn’t, he just stays at home.

Cat and I speak English with him and he sometimes speaks a cocktail of Thai, Lao and Suay to the rest of the world. Somehow he manages to switch to English to talk to me, though it’s very comic when Thai words get mixed in too. He knows the colors and numbers in both English and Thai and we’ll try hard to raise him as bilingual in both languages.

Having thus introduced my small son, Tony, to you, he can now begin to feature openly in the continuing story of what should from now on better be called, ‘My Thai Wife and Son and I’.

Copyright Andrew Hicks The “Thai Girl” Blog January 2010


Britinbangkok said...

He is absolutely adorable. And good for you! I'm definitely still thinking about doing the same sometime down the road. Too many kids with no parents in Thailand and I'm sure I could take care of one of them very well. :-)

So happy for you and Cat!

Anonymous said...

Andrew I am very happy to hear your news. My wife and I are trying to have a child now also. I am almost 50 and am concerned about what my adult children will think when we are successful on the other side of the world. How was the reaction from yours?
I saw Stefans facebook lead. That looks like it has real possibilities. Good luck

Stefan said...

Happy Birthday Tony! :-)

Thai Girl said...

Thanks for your nice thoughts. Getting an adoption through in Thailand is more than difficult though.

And yes, Mike, how it hits one's adult children is important. Even remarrying a Thai can be difficult as step relations are threatening. That's just part of the mammalian world.

A new child in the family brings up thoughts of sibling rivalry and these nsions do not disappear just because they are no lnger childen. Then of course there can be the issue of having to share their inheritance with an outsider whose needs if still young are greater than theirs.

My daughter and son have been amazing and have only seen he positive sides of having a new little brother. We're taking him for a trip to UK soon now that we've got the passport and they're really looking forward to seeing him there.

The reaction just depends on the individuals concerned.

Thanks for all your posts.


Chardvignon said...

Thanks for sharing - you and your Thai girl clearly will have a real monster on your hands in the future! What a smile!

On a side note, why do so many Asian cultures now feel compelled to do the "Wall of Sound" thing at parties? This happens every time my wife and I visit her parents, although frankly my mother-in-law is deaf as a post, and my father-in-law must be one of the few Asian men who hates karaoke. Yet every year we make the annual pilgrimmage to her ancestral home, and it's the wall of sound again. I just don't get it.

marc said...

Che bello!

He's a handsome little fella and very fortunate to have fallen into such a capable hands. I hope he brings you much happiness… and goes on to secure a lucrative contract with a world-class football team!

Anonymous said...

From the grown up daughter- there are so many children who don't have the advantages we did as kids and if Dad can be a daddy to one of them, then me and my brother are very happy to be the bigger (much) siblings he would not have had otherwise.

My brother is excited about all the outings we can do whilst Tony is in the UK like the zoo, theme parks etc that we have not had an excuse to go to for years!

Thai Girl said...

Thanks a million, grown up daughter. That really means a lot to me.

Yes, having a late and dusky addition to the family was a bit of a surprise for you but you've both been amazing. You've already met him twice in Thailand and as you know he's a star. We should all have a lot of fun together when all we visit England.



Jen said...

What a wonderful picture of a family of such diverse members.
Pleased to have "met" you in the written word, photos and loved the comments from "anonymous" daughter.
Bless you all.
Jenny, Tasmania.