IMG_0802There is a Jewish custom of writing an ethical will in which we convey our hopes and concerns to our children.
Since I’m a speechwriter, I wanted to write a speech to be delivered when my son Leo arrives, expressing my hopes and concerns for his life.

Leo, we’ve been expecting you. We knew you’re a boy, because we saw it on the scan.

The nurse announced ‘There’s his willy’.
And your mum said: ‘Does that mean it’s a boy?’
The nurse repeated, ‘He’s got a willy’.
Your mum said: ‘Are you sure?’

Your dad feels awe, pride and wonder at this moment.
I can’t speak for your mum, she’s probably a bit sore.

We discussed how you should arrive and, if circumstances allowed, we wanted a home birth.
This is because we haven’t got a car, and your mum didn’t want to bring you home on the bus.

Leo, welcome to the human race. You’re a lucky boy. You’ve come down the cosmic chimney in Bournemouth, England.
You’ve got English Bohemian middle class parents.
We hope to be able to feed you three meals a day for the duration of your childhood.

You’ll have a beach, some sea and from time to time some sunshine, five minutes from where you live.

Why have we called you Leo?
That’s a difficult question.
It’s short and easy to spell.

Your mum liked the name after your dad got the idea from one of his favourite films: The Go Between.

But news of your arrival has had brought positive change.
We’ve had the flat redecorated.
Your cot now occupies your dad’s old office.

On February 28 your mum and dad went to Gretna Green in Scotland to get married.

You’ve made us respectable.

What kind of world have you been born into?

A world when there are still a few bookshops left.

A world where science has supposedly replaced religion, but I’ll have to say a few words about that.

Queen Elizabeth II is the queen, and David Cameron is the Prime Minister.

What can I tell you about your family?
Your surname is Jenner.

On your dad’s side, your great grandfather was born in 1870, and he lived to 102.
Your great grandfather was born in 1906 and he lived to be 100.

And your grandfather is 76 not out. ‘Not out’ is a concept that you’ll become familiar with.

Your grandad is mad on cricket, and so was your great grandad.

Your mum’s family is based in Havant in Hampshire. Your granddad, Nick, has retired as a technical draftsman and your grandma, Gillian, works is as a librarian.

Most of your dad’s family is based in the Isle of Man.
A place where the cats have no tails.

You have four cousins, Robin, Harvey, Alice and Darcey.
They all speak with a slightly sing-song Liverpool accent.

What can you expect in this life? Life is wonderful, but also uncertain and difficult.

There are joys, triumphs and pleasures.
There are griefs, disappointments and pain.

The Prayer Book says we must ‘pass through the waves of this troublesome world’

You may never take much of an interest in religion, but your dad did.

When trouble came your dad was influenced by three traditions.

The first is Anglicanism. My dad made me go to church every Sunday. I’m not sure yours will.

You’re English. It rains, it’s cold and it’s often gloomy.

Anglicanism is about gentle pessimism, nostalgia, ritual, beautiful decaying buildings, schools and universities.

Think of the river Thames, green fields and Westminster Abbey, church bells and hymn singing.

Anglicanism is all about cautious, repressed hope. You’ll experience that when England play tennis, cricket or football.

The second is more exotic: Christian Science. Your grandmother was inspired by the ideas of the American woman, Mary Baker Eddy.

Mrs Eddy thought our minds are the root causes of many of our problems.

She observed how Jesus healed men and women who were in desperate situations. Other religions forget this.

Fear causes all kinds of diseases and ailments. Try to live without fear, Leo.

Most things we can recover from.

Remember also if you’re tempted to point the finger at others who are causing you misery in your life, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

The third influence is Judaism.

The world is full of conformity, conventions and compromises.
You’re born into them.

Your job is to get out of Egypt and find the Promised Land.

Freedom is good. Business is good. Money is good.

You’ll be glad to learn your mum is much more light-hearted and fun.

She wants you to take an interest in nature: bugs and plants and flowers.

She’ll be able to tell you much more about the practical side of life.

This is the moment a husband becomes a dad and a wife becomes a mum. Like you, we’ve got a new world to deal with.

Don’t forget, by the time you old enough and smart enough to realise how your parents need to change, they’ll be too old to do so.

Leo, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to life. We’ll do our best to care for you, guide you and to help you along your way.


1 Comment

  1. Brent Kerrigan

    Brian, great speech. I love the gentle mix of humour, connection to the past, and both hope and uncertainty about what is to come. I particularly enjoy the mix of expectation between Leo’s mom and dad. A great treasure for Leo in the future. Thanks for sharing.


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