I am intrigued by the university degree – ‘Bachelor of Paternal Application’. A Daddy Degree, if you will, focused on putting papa wisdom into practice. The glossy foldout and quirky marketing blurb seem to pitch to prospective dads and those keen to up the ante on their parenting performance.

There doesn’t appear to be anything that excludes mums, or even granddads who might simply want to ponder all the skills they might have applied had such a program been available in their day. All the units you might expect are there – nutrition, wellbeing, psychology, personal development, nurturing and nappy changing.

I am curious about the transfer of lecturing noggin-knowledge into practical skills, but not so much that it overtook my thoughts about what the uni pub might look like.

Paradoxically, it is only a three-year degree for a role that takes a lifetime. I am not sure you ever really master being a dad, particularly where the position description needs updating on a monthly basis – fortnightly if you are parenting teens.

“Seriously?” you ask.

Of course I am serious. Being a wholehearted dad is seriously serious. Dads should own their share of responsibility for raising children who can make influential, responsible transitions into adulthood. Sometimes, it seems that my kids are bobbing around in a dingy on a stormy sea between single-mum and single-dad while we both toss life-lines of wisdom and assurance in their direction, hoping that they latch on and navigate their way to the dry land of maturity, confidence, conviction and kindness.

The uni degree… no, I am not serious.

Parenting Tightrope

Yet, the cerebral meanderings which led me to an illusory enrolment form make me more aware of the vast complexities of being a dad. Each day, I know to be super aware of an incoming behaviour that has me mindful that my next word or action could raise a smile or light the powder keg.

On another day, one of my children will skip up to me with one day of notice to call me in to attend a school function at the same time that I have committed to working with a client, and I am supposed to look them deeply in the eye and hope for a soft heart when I apologise that I can’t make it.

Or, how do I spontaneously find new ways to soothe a sobbing child when the hug I provided yesterday was a magical elixir, and today, even ice cream won’t cut it? Yes, at times, I am exasperated. I cannot read books quickly enough to discover all the nuances of parenting when I don’t have the option to say, “Tag – you’re in!”

I sometimes tip-toe through the wisdom of all the great parenting books I have tried to put into practice when one of my kids opts for the behaviour to be discussed in the next edition. Of course, sometimes I trigger the daddy minefield by carelessly lobbing a poorly timed dad joke, when a word of tenderness would have been a winner.

Quality Moments

So from fortnight to fortnight, I scribe a few thoughts as my reminder to hold the parenting straight line, while trying to glean some wisdom from friends and books and counsellors in place of my imagined Higher Distinction in Talking Teen.

Ironically, the Dad questions that stir in my head should not be answered by lecture hall lessons, but by my children whose needs I am tending. A Father’s Day marketing blurb that included some grabs by kids reminded me that I might be over-processing.

  • “My Dad is funny. We pretend we are clowns.”
  • “My Dad is a superhero because he volunteers to be the referee at my soccer games!”
  • “My Daddy’s my hero because he’s really tall and gets high things down for me.”
  • “Because he tries so hard to get home in time for a cuddle.”
  • “My Dad is a superhero because he plays princes and princesses with me.”
  • “I love that Dad gives me great pointers and feedback when I play footy. He’s like my personal coach.”

No, there is no parenting uni degree that I am aware of yet. However, if I listen closely, my children will give me all the study notes I need to graduate top of the class in their eyes.


Photo by Mart Production.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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