I hold a lofty ideal for my daughters. Lofty and simple. I want them to be sure in believing that they are wholesome people of value, who can tend generously to others and themselves. If I am doing well as a mindful dad, then I am setting my daughters up to be caring companions to friend, family and foreigner.

As they develop the skills to rely less on me and fend for themselves, I trust that my dad influence has set them up to be independently big-hearted.

My sticking point, however, is that I don’t have a definitive plan. My single-dad role description is not clearly defined. And, because I am allergic to the frustrating complication of details, I sometimes tend to ad-lib my dad role. That should not imply that I am off-hand about being a dad. I am ‘big picture’, which means that I spend vast amounts of effort setting up the circumstances for my daughters to be their best and I typically let the details play out. For example, I will cook meals in advance to set up more time on a weeknight to be present for them. Plus, it means less racing around when I just like things to be minimal. Trouble-free. Simple. Peaceful.

So, to give evidence that the great Creator of my life’s design won’t let me slip into a comfort zone, He has gifted me with two daughters and no position description etched into stone.

In short, I am mindful that my parenting destination has no parenting GPS.

Role Models

Because I have an instinct to lead my children to be strong and healthily assured of their worth, I look for inspired people who share my ideal.

Sometimes school is a starting point. Last week, school camp was a three-day opportunity for my eldest to shake off her parental presence while still being well cared for.

On the other side of the world, a New York mum provides inspiration. She allowed her nine-year-old son to catch the subway home alone after they had shared some time in the city. The solo subway trip happened at the boy’s insistence, and mum was savvy enough to know that the young man needed to explore his ability to make his way in the world.

I admire the mum’s willingness and the care she provided before, during and after the boy found his way safely home. This parenting example might otherwise have slipped by; however, the boy’s mum, Lenore, was a journalist and the article she wrote caused a stir. Battle lines were drawn and fought across the internet, talkback radio and letters to the newspaper. I like Lenore’s approach.

Personal Experience

I also look to my own childhood for inspiration. I was 20 when I started pressing my parents to trust me with their second car, so I could search out my own ability to run solo by travelling to the most remote parts of Tasmania. I was a late bloomer, so my need for parental security through my teens contrasts with the New York youngster whose independence gene went into overdrive at 9 years old. After my mum embraced me with multiple rounds of from-the-soul “I love you”, she told me “Please call!”

Somewhat insensitively, I blurted out “no” and headed off. I didn’t have the skills back then to express that this trip was about exploring my own ability to take care of myself. Being expected to phone in seemed like I was being assigned a parental independence parole officer that I had to report to every 24 hours. I became angry and defiant. The nagging sense of a daily parental roll call needled at my desire to do right by myself, which meant navigating on my own.

So, 20-odd years on from being 20, I am carefully parenting my daughters, in particular one who is excitedly anticipating her own version of an independence journey. We have planned for her to do a solo trip to visit friends in Brisbane. She is tuning into her own ability by asking if there is any layover. I softly explained with a serious face, “If you can manage to walk across the runway and up the stairs and find your seat and belt yourself in, then it is a cinch.”

I haven’t yet explained how she works through dealing with her dad squeezing a goodbye hug that draws a proud tear from me. She is more ready to go than I am in my own trust that I have parented her to be ready for her solo trip. I suspect right now she would be excited to read my thought that the only way for me to be assured that I am doing the right thing, is to offer her more openings to fly solo.


Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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