My life as a dad is whatever you get when you tumble excitement and pride and joy and sweet-sadness and wholeheartedness together. The heady mix of emotion had me blurt out an “I love you” to my girls on their mum’s voicemail and spontaneously add: “I am just so proud to be your dad!”

My thoughts turn often to my earthly angels when they are not in my care. While there is always a soft-background sadness that they live somewhere else, I get a dreamy, blissful rush of emotion at having been gifted the responsibility to carefully tend them to adulthood and even beyond.

Envisioning the Weekend

As the post-school pickup nears on the Friday of my weekend with my two daughters, I shape in my head the various options for our weekend. Pancakes. Tickle wrestles. Visit nan and pop. Homework. A few more pages of the “Beautifully Made” book and honest questions and answers about puberty. Run-up hugs. Church. Homemade cooking. Early nights to bed to recover from the tiredness of school.

The logical, disciplined, wanting-for-a-plan part of my makeup kicks up a gear.

The emotional dad connection brims as the well-ordered, efficient version of me eases alongside. The excited anticipation of a cheery hug brightens my logical side that needs to check the time to know how long until the final school bell peals.

At the same time, I am particular in how I go about my work and personal life. A couple of friends opted for pedantic and obsessive as their own descriptions of me.

All of the emotion and logic and joy and finicky bits of me go into my weekend. Usually, they make for a hearty brew that brings out the happiest of weekends. Other times, I fall short of the Super-Dad finish line.

Lost It

Last weekend, I had a falling short moment. Most of the ingredients were in place for a fantastic time. Warm weather. Cousins. Nan and Pop. Barbecue. Outdoor playground. The friendly family chatter increased to excited shrieking. The gentle playground pace ramped up and the cheery play escalated into a water fight.

In a moment, I sensed that I was about to be the target of a cup of water and called “STOP!” but my shouted command was ignored because the excitement of the moment was far stronger for a ten-year-old. Instinctively, my legs started me into a sprint and my body turned to make a getaway.

However, in that instant, I didn’t have time to get my bearings and the huge pine log that supported the roof of the BBQ shelter stayed immovable as I bounced off it, falling heavily, stunned and wildly disorientated. And, I yelled at my daughter. She wasn’t to blame, however, she copped a spray and an order to walk to the corner of the park.

As I tried to shake the dancing colours out of my eyes in order to make sense of where I was, I saw my daughter make the corner point of the park and then drop onto the ground in tears. That was my sobering moment. It was my ‘tell’ that my daughter had worn the shock and embarrassment and pain of my accident.

My behaviour fell a long way short of the high — particular — standard that I set and my daughters should expect.

I made my way over to my daughter, sat alongside and cried as I made an apology. I had disappointed myself, upset my daughter and was ashamed.

Later I shared what happened with my own mum, my partner and a couple of dear friends who are all parents. My mum, partner and friends care deeply for me in their honesty, so none of them have sugar-coated my parenting blemish.

Thankfully, they also expressed the most sincere care for me and my girls in words of affirmation and expressions of love. In spite of my stuff-up, I felt humbled by my mum, partner and friends who acknowledged that parenting can be a tough gig.

They were sincere in acknowledging their own parenting misadventures, reminding me to set expectations that are a reasonable stretch rather than impossibly difficult.

I ponder now that maybe I am not fully a single dad, because my parenting is done with the fullest care of solid, nourishing companions. I do a reasonable job on my own. I do an awesome job of parenting with the endorsement, honesty and joy of wonderfully sound friends.

Their forgiveness and that of my daughter has soothed me. Importantly, forgiving myself has me looking forward to this weekend with my precious girls.


Photo by Monika Balciuniene.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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