Once upon a not-so-long-ago-time, I wasn’t a single dad. I was just a dad. Well, not “just”. For a just-starting-out dad, I had set some parenting goals. I quite deliberately set out to be anything but “just a dad.”
I had a profound sense of parenting purpose. I was pounding with pride at the prospect of crafting a wonderful little person and was underway with nurturing and nursing my – our – wonderfully perfect daughter. Prefixing “dad” with “just” is a terrible downplaying of the gift that dads can be to their daughters. Anyhow, I had started out with the conviction that my parenting potential was much greater than a flippant “just a dad.” I sometimes cringe when I think back to the conversations I shared with random people, gushing with superlatives at my newly bestowed dad status. My excitement mingled with the consciousness that dads can be the soundest leaders and example-setters for their daughters.
No one says “married dad.” I was that for a little while. And when the married dad gig was over, the outcome was shambolic. There was the spirit-sapping madness of buying a new car, setting up as a renter, bargain-hunting furniture and adapting to new routines. In truth, while I was feeling numb, oppressively sad and out of place, my spirit for being a dad never wavered. The dads who I knock around with are serious dads and they carry a fierce spirit for their children that is demonstrated most clearly by being around as much as they can for their kids. The spirit of being a superhero dad who can reach the top shelf to fetch Lego or make a late start at work so they can catch their kid’s concert is the lure that hooks dads who are intent on being present 24/7.
Separation put 24/7 parenting out of reach. I struggled with mentally clocking on and clocking off being a dad. My Sunday afternoons were light and joyful with my daughters until the depressing 4:00 pm handover. At 4:00 pm, I would act out my best fake cheer, hug my precious earthly angels goodbye and conceptually flick my dad switch to off. And on again a week later. And off… and on. And so on for six years.
Six years out of 45 is not long ago. In fact, my story goes back a little further because my eldest first opened her eyes to the world twelve years ago. So the numbers have it that I have been a dad for 26.63% of my life.
My not-single-dad timeline just outweighs my single-dad gig, 51.15% to 48.85%. As of right now, it holds that I was a married dad for the first 50% of my daughter’s life. And, as my daughters are in my care for five nights in fourteen, I am able to do face-to-face dad things for 35.71% a fortnight.
However, that dad spirit has it that I am a dad all the time. I give my daughters a quick call every day they are in their mum’s care. They are always close by in thought and prayer. I check the soccer roster ahead of time to make sure that I can make the weekend games. I try to make parent-help at school which crafts more face-to-face time. I strive to make sure that their home with dad is neat and tidy, with their clothes washed and immaculately ironed. I make sure the fridge is stocked ahead of time for delicious dinners and hearty school lunches. And while I persistently tread through the up-and-down of parenting a teen, the spirit I have for being a dad is always present. In spite of all the stats and stereotyped perceptions of single dads, I am a dad through all that I do.
Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash.