Here we are, Father’s Day 2020, my 8th year as a dad and so much has changed over each of those years, not only for my daughter but also for me as a person and as a dad. Looking back, I remember thinking from the outside that fatherhood would be limiting, however, I’ve found fatherhood has given me the freedom to cast off the ego, facade and pretence and actually discover who I am as a person and as a man.
Since becoming a dad at a stage in life (49yo), where instead of styling my hair I’m more likely to be finding it clogging the drain and lowering the expectation of ever being referred to as a fit dad, to a slightly more realistic, but still somewhat aspirational description of a spritely, or at least still active dad, life has been one incredible adventure of discovery and development for my daughter and I together.
There have been so many firsts, so much discovery about the world and its workings, not only for Charlie, but also for me. We’re incredibly privileged to have shared so many firsts together. We’ve swam with seals, fed every type of animal from giraffes to tigers, had amazing road trips to more zoos than I can count, glorious sun filled days teaching her surf and freezing days at the snow
I’m extremely fortunate and privileged to be a dad to the easiest kid in the world, her disposition and character convey a moderate veneer of competency as a parent that I’m often amused to receive, although glad to have bestowed upon me.
My biggest contribution to Charlie’s progress through her developmental milestones is the ability to realise and accept she’s exactly who she’s meant to be and my major contribution apart from being fortunate enough not to pass on my looks is to encourage and support her to figure out who she is rather than to try and manipulate her into any pre-conceived idea of who I think she should be.
Fatherhood for me has been the greatest self- improvement, self- development course I have ever undertaken. I realised in a moment of clarity that when I find my daughter testing my limits and pushing my buttons, that these limits are WAY too easy to reach for a child who hopefully, will be encouraged to explore and expand her own limits, it hardly seems fair if my daughter is the only one in our team that is expected to grow and mature as life changes.
Like most first time parents – The first time I was solely responsible for getting her through the night, I admit I was terrified I would make a mistake. The first weeks of being a parent coupled with an unusually high anxiety level can really work you up about all the possible things that can go horribly wrong with a baby. I’d imagined more scenarios than the sum total of the “Die Hard” movies, suddenly in my warped paranoid first-time dad brain I was John MacLaine with a chubby little cherub for a side-kick who wasn’t going to be much use against any villains and unable to appreciate my snappy one-liners.
It’s now 8 years later and while Charlie’s appreciation of my snappy one-liners at least results in a pre- teen eye roll now, without doubt the “dad” stuff is still the best part of my day, even if something great happens outside of the home (like finding an old candy in a pocket) there is nothing that’s not made instantly better when I walk through that door and hear “DAD!!!”
I designed my life when Charlie was about 2 because I wanted, no, chose to be an integral part of Charlies every day life. I was in a meeting and becoming acutely aware, for the first time, that my time was being wasted. I work hard, I place great value on being committed to my clients and the trust they place in me, but now I had a daughter that I wanted to be with and honestly this meeting could have been just as effective had it been delivered by email, yet there I sat, a captive audience.
I realised then that I had better shit to do, instantly I felt a physical need to hold Charlie, to hear her voice, her laughter, to feel her snuggled in my arms, my priorities had changed as I had changed. Coaxed into the realisation that who I once was, or at least who I thought I should be, had, like the legendary Elvis, left the building. The importance of things and the appearance of stature seemed so tenuous, at the whim of others, rather than of any real consequence to my daughter.
It is the moments between the moments – where the magic lies and the connection is made – the best times with Charlie are those where the amount of time spent doing something isn’t an important consideration, these moments appear like magic rather than some well-planned orchestration of logistical and physical assets. They happen when suddenly there is a sense of alignment that only comes from being truly present, dragged out of your head and into the amazing untarnished reality of a child who wants nothing more than your undivided attention on what they are discovering about the world. The innocent world of make- believe, and anything is possible, where you are a flying horse or a super hero cheetah.
Why not use those moments to foster limitless moments for openness, listening, and celebrating?
I’ve even found some amazing movements of connection and heart filling love that didn’t really involve any direct interaction between Charlie and I. I can’t count the number of nights as I wonder through the house bleary eyed on the way to bed picking all of the discarded and misplaced items from clothing to toys, switching off enough lights to illuminate the dark side of the moon and adjusting the thermostat, as every dad is genetically and biologically programmed to do.
Too many nights as this process winds its way down the hall, I stop at Charlie’s room to deposit the armful of stuff with a mental note to remind her in the morning of her obligation to tidy her own stuff, a quick adjustment of her doona to make sure she’s covered, a sense of jealously that her contorted sleeping position and still functioning shoulders won’t require a 15 minute wake up routine, complete with groaning that sounds like a couple of amorous possums going at it!
It’s then quite a few minutes later and I find myself still sitting in her room, on the end of her bed staring at her with tears running down my face, completely dumbstruck that something so perfect could ever have been entrusted to me by the universe, (Karma really dropped the ball with this one) a bloke who listed his major accomplishments as lifting moderately heavy things and being able to consume roughly 1.73 times his own bodyweight in all of the major food groups!
I’ve found all kinds of wonderful surprises in Charlie’s developing personality and especially in my own. There’s a Tolstoy quote I love: “There is no past and no future; no one has ever entered those two imaginary kingdoms. There is only the present.” This is the mantra for connection, for true listening, the right here right now you matter most that our kids need to know without doubt.
“Who Knew?’. When I was a child, I thought my dad was brilliant, now I’m a dad, I understand, while he could do anything, he took the time to teach me how to do it for myself, my dad didn’t just build a house, he built a home for his family, he didn’t just build successful businesses, he provided for his family and it wasn’t my father’s hands that did this it was his heart and soul. Dad was teaching me how to be a Dad without every mentioning it, just merely by his actions and his values. I understand my dad’s physical strength was nothing. It was useless and inconsequential compared to the strength he needed to shepherd and support his family. But it was the moments between the moments, that connected me to my father. The time he took, the patience he showed and the trust he placed in me to find myself is everything I want to be for my daughter. His actions, his values and his priorities are all those that I emulate with my daughter. “Who Knew?”
We all have competing demands in today’s hectic life, but the one thing that is within our control is the quality, if not the quantity of the time we have with our children, in fact, there is often an inverse relationship between quality and quantity. When we place a premium on the scarcity of any resource its value naturally increases…. For those that think that is just too wordy let me try to make it VERY simple; every day there are amazing moments with your children, pay attention or you will miss them. This is where we can make the biggest impact, have the biggest influence and ensure the biggest connection that will form fond, firm and lasting memories for them to carry with them through life.
I need to ask: Father’s Day 2020 the Covid-19 version, will it be better, will it be worse? it’s definitely different that’s for sure, however, harder, easier, better or worse, surely, they’re all subjective calls, an opinion?
So on this rather different Father’s Day I will find a quiet moment out of the many moments to savour my breakfast pancakes swimming in a sea of syrup, sit back in my new stretchy- waist Dad shorts and raise the MY DAD ROCKS coffee cup and most likely shed a tear thinking about how lucky I was to have a hero for a dad and little legend for a kid.
A huge shout out to all the Dads of all descriptions: Grandfathers, step, adoptive, foster and same-sex Dads, I have never been happier or prouder to be a part of a cargo short, Hawaiian shirt wearing, uniformed club!
Thank you for taking the time to read my article, I am always eager to discuss my experiences with others, please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto my web page www.michaelray.com.au and go to the Contact Me page, and leave a message. If you are looking for a speaker for an event or function please follow the link t my booking form https://michaelray.com.au/event-booking. Keep you eye open for more information on my new book to be published in June 2021 through Daisylane Publishing
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