Apparently, fear is a great motivator. To change a behaviour, people will try to move away from or avoid a fear. People will also change their behaviour when motivated by moving toward an incentive; however, it is fear that is running with me.

I have ticked off some crazy mountain climbs that dulled my fear of scaling peaks. I overcame the dreaded apprehension of separation. Through school and beyond I gradually learned to dull my horror at public speaking, even managing to deliver a short stand-up comedy routine.

My fear of spilling blood kept me at a snail’s pace on my mountain bike, though I have now learned to pick up some speed on the downhill tracks. I used to have an irrational fear of letting anything personal out about myself; however, the scrutiny of Family Court cured that.

And here I am cutting loose on the very public Daily Dad news site. In short, I have done some fix-it work on my fears.

One remains.

It is the fear of one of my children waking up during the night howling from symptoms of some illness I can’t ascertain because the symptoms won’t let my daughter settle enough to blurt out what is wrong.

My fear comes from knowing my daughter is asthmatic and prone to croup. Hobart winters are no friend to croup sufferers.


To soothe my fear just a tad, I set a few measures in place. I never drink when the girls are in my care. I register just one notch away from teetotaler anyhow, but will not drink anything stronger than water when we are together.

I don’t have anyone backing me up, so if one of my girls urgently requires a doctor, then I am the driver. Plus, because there is no backup, if one of the girls makes the case for a hospital trip, then they both get bundled into the car.

That just adds to my fear, because the first sick kid will be changed into a dressing gown in an instant and the other is “Daaaad… I just want to sleep.”

It has happened that I have had to make like an ambulance. There is a surreal horror in carrying a sick child to the car while stars sparkle in an absurd paradoxical beauty.


That slumber-rupturing scream played out again a few nights ago.



My name was screamed in a way that all fifteen of my dad senses kicked in from being unconscious to being in overdrive in a fraction of one second.

The remainder of that single second was spent mentally finding my car keys, remembering that there was enough fuel in the car to get to the hospital, having my cerebral GPS plotting the quickest route to the hospital, visualising where the girls’ dressing gowns were and recalling where yesterday’s socks and strides were. The second tick of the clock calibrated in my head the exact location of the scream.

The scream that I heard reached into that part of my being that cares and loves my girls so deeply and wrenched me into their bedroom. Dads that hold that care don’t need to hear their child’s words to tell them something is wrong. The wide eyes are a giveaway. There was no colour in my daughter’s face.

My fear was playing out, and yet I could be settled by knowing that I was ready as best I could be for such an eventuality. My heartbeat had kicked up and the calm, rational part of me was about to step into warrant officer mode to issue the orders: “Dressing gown! Shoes! Race out to the car!”

I suspect my girls sense my slight bubbling of fear in spite of my effort to damp it down. My precious daughter wanted to blurt out what was wrong.

Yet, I could also see in her eyes the want to stop me from bundling her into her dressing gown and into the car.

I wasn’t sure that I had time to make sense of what was happening and reasoned that a doctor would be best to hear what was going on.

However, I did stop. Possibly only three seconds had elapsed from the first scream. I could spare one more to listen in.

My daughter breathed in.

“Daddy,” she said softly.

“There’s a spider.”


Photo by Anna Shvets.

Published On: July 22nd, 20220 CommentsTags: , , , ,

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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