Sometimes on the other side of a wonderful parenting weekend, there is a sense that single parenting is a clock-on-clock-off thing. A full parenting weekend involves the tumble and fun and out of sorts and homework and silliness and around-the-house helping out. Then, it goes quiet when I mentally punch off my dad timecard after wrapping up the school drop-off, knowing that the mum shift starts that afternoon. And, while I never regard my dad role as work, I gave more thought this week to how my dad role is less stop-start and a more present-full-time gig.

The Being-More-Present Objective

In part, the being-more-present objective came about through a charity pyjama day fundraiser my Miss 12 organised with the friends of her school leadership team. As often happens, on Sunday evening I was given a late call to action: “Dad, I have to make a poster for school… it needs to be ready first thing tomorrow.” Once I had explained the subtleties of asking with a “Please dad…” we drafted an electronic version that could be ready to be dotted around the school to promote the fund-raiser.

On that Monday afternoon, I enjoyed the after-school pickup and seeing the flyer posted around the school. The collective effort of my daughter directing how the A4 poster was to look and my Microsoft Word skills produced a promo that alerted students to their dress up.

There were four days until the junior school traded a gold coin donation for the silliness of dressing up in PJs. And, on each of those days, I could only wish that I was doing the before and after school parenting routine and hope that each poster Miss 12 saw might draw dad to mind. Maybe… just possibly… my eldest daughter might share lunch with her friends and nod in the direction of an A4 flyer and excitedly blurt out “Dad and I made that!”

In those times when my daughters are in the company of others I hope that I am still present to my daughters.

I still phone in most evenings to invite “what was the best bit of your day” and share “I love you” and “I am so proud of you.”

I iron the socks that are going back to mum as a quirky gift that might bring dad to mind when they pull them on.

When Miss 7’s footy boots come home festooned by the muddy mess of a Hobart soccer quagmire I clean them down with cloth and toothbrush to make them as new again. When the boots are laced up in the other home, I like to think that the mud-free gleam of as-new boots might remind my youngster of her dad who tends to gifts of service as acts of love and devotion.

Every now and then I drop a small gift from the $2 shop into my daughters’ school lunch box. If I don’t get to be an everyday dad who tickle-wrestles or hugs or shares bedtime stories then I might be present in other ways.

The incidental ‘gifts’ that are a dad signature can be full of meaning for a daughter.

Family Traditions: Ice Cream Cake

I had a lesson this week in caring for the dad gifts that are precious to my daughters. I apologised to Miss 12 that my out-of-state travel bumped the traditional homemade ice cream birthday cake. As Miss 12 tearily stated “but you always make ice cream cake”, I felt the disappointment of breaking a ritual that my daughters connect to dad.

The disappointed tears were an emotive reminder of being close even while being out of reach of a hug. Our ice cream cake tradition is symbolic of our strong dad-daughter connection. The cake is a year-to-year thread that affirms my heartfelt belief in my daughters. The birthday cake I produce and gifts of service are my way to demonstrate that I am always with them and for them. I will be for my daughters because even when I am a great out-of-sight dad, I am still dad.


Photo by Valeria Boltneva.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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