I know that I gravitate to the happy, good things that each day of adventure delivers. Still, there are those occasional times when I struggle as great joy butts squarely up against sadness. I can have tears leak out while wearing a delighted smile. The simultaneous happy-sad thing doesn’t happen too often.

Typically, it comes of wondering where my children are right now, wanting a moment to walk a bit with my arms stretched around both and realising the great joy in just being. I love just being.

I love the simplicity of being my daughters’ dad and oblivious to anything beyond the happy place of that moment. There is a precious place of joy in being just us alongside the enough. Joy flavours my sadness and sadness enriches my joy.

I went to that place last week and had Bill caring for me along the way. In fact, Bill helped me to that special place.

Quality Time

Bill Jennings is an energetic advocate for dads and mums spending time with their children. Last week I enjoyed the privilege of witnessing him run a dads-and-daughters evening session, during which he put it to the dads to get in front of their daughters a lot more often and just get real. Getting real simply meant giving their daughter a sense of being valued by the investment of time to talk.

Underneath his cajoling manner and uncomplicated delivery was an intricate devotion to initiating some “wow!” moments between dad and daughter.

His delivery was masterful. I was entertained by his theatrical gestures. He stepped into and out of the Year 7 mannerisms of girls to communicate deeply with them. Then, he would flip into the glib banter of blokes, yet not in any way that compromised him reaching deep into the souls of those dads, dusting that inner space into a shine that prepped them for connected conversation with their daughters.

I got to look on. I deliver training so I was intent on tuning into his delivery techniques. My intent was to observe. However, Bill’s style didn’t allow just observation. While his words were sometimes softly ocker and light, there was a fervent urgency in how he said his words that insisted on participation. I couldn’t just look on to note the specific words he used or the motions of his hands. Bill’s combination of words, gestures, tone, fervour and spirited link to the dads was like an emotional magnet that encouraged participation.


When it came time for conversation, Bill entrusted me to read the chat-starting questions to smaller groups. Dads and daughters took turns in sharing a precious memory or thought about the push-pull of setting boundaries and independence or keeping communication open. As the trust grew in the group, so did the tug-at-the-heart moments.

For me, there was a great honour in hearing the observations of the young women. The revelation for me was that none of the girls said anything about their dad buying them stuff. There were no stories of shopping trips or new shoes or jewellery or iPhone or concert tickets or computer games or DVDs.

Instead, that space for dad and daughter connection time was loaded up with tales of dad just being. Over and over, “Dad helps me put the horse gear away” and “Dad watches my sport” and “It’s a long drive, but Dad always comes to pick me up.”

Simple Question

Then, the one comment that smacked home how both simple and complex being a dad is was:

“When I was a child, Dad used to always ask how my day was, but he doesn’t do that anymore.”

Wow! I know that being a dad requires a lot more effort beyond inviting, “How was your day?” but there was a girl out there whose heart yearned to be asked, “How was your day?”

Most of all, what I saw wasn’t a young woman waiting for the opening to share her day, but for a dad to demonstrate his interest in her. It looked a whole lot to me that she gained a sense of being valued and worthy by dad simply slowing up for a moment to focus all of his attention on his daughter.

I don’t want my girls to be left silently waiting for the question to be asked.

Bill’s wrap-up had dads and daughters leaning into one another, arms embraced around shoulders. At the back of the room, no one could see me let slip a tear while holding a smile. I smiled at the blissful expression of affection between dad and daughter.

For that moment I inhaled the delight while feeling the sadness that stirred from it not being me embracing my daughters. Then, happy again because the Greg-in-my-head skipped ahead to the few-days-away weekend that starts with, “How was your day?”


Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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