What is the measure of a dad’s relationship with his daughters? My left brain ponders that “I have a 9 out of 10 relationship”, but I am hardly going to say that aloud, as I would sound more analytical than heartfelt. The essence of being a dad that radiates from a deep, heartfelt core doesn’t know the words, because words will fall short of my love for my daughters and the gift of being a dad.

With all the elements that swirl in and out of our family of three, nothing stays still long enough to run my relationship measuring tape over us. As I peruse my thoughts and feelings, I skip back to an early moment of starting out. In the nine months ahead of being promptly smitten by my daughter being mine to hold, I wrote my parenting goals:

“I intend to raise my children to go out into the world as confident, generous adults, assured that their worth is equal to all others, carrying an amazing capacity for goodness, who will make their way strongly with healthy values to share their gifts faithfully and will come back to visit their dad, not because they feel obliged to, but because they want to.”

Never enough time

That was once when I had fourteen nights in a fortnight to talk to my daughters of garden fairies and Hairy Maclary, growing up, faith, heartache and joy, virtues and friendships. Even for that little time while all of us lived together, my children’s growing up seemed to outpace the conversations I composed. I parented to plant some of my wisdom, values, goodness and courage in my daughters. And, I did. But time was fleeting, and the experiences I wanted to share were vast.

I tumbled my way through the upheaval of learning to take turns at divvying up our time of parental care. Oftentimes, I arrive frustrated at the other side of a weekend caring for my daughters, because our moment was way too short for the conversations and experiences I had planned.

Little wonder that many single dads carefully measure out the time with their children and are protective of it. Those single dads often speak of time as the unit of measure linking their relationship with their children. In the bitter experience of separation, some of us dads weren’t so savvy with our words when we begged for time with our children. We pleaded to our lawyers and argued in the Family Court, and advocated in emails to our exes for more time.

Quality over quantity

Yet, I wasn’t wise enough in all my hurt to articulate what I really meant. You would have heard my head say, “I want time,” while my heart was desperately hoping you would hear, “I want to keep my precious relationship as a dad to my daughters.” Time with our children is something we say, but I trust you will understand we are calling to grow the relationship with our children.

I still get asked, “How much time do you have with your daughters?” While I am not bothered by the enquiry, I would rather be asked, “How is your relationship with Miss 8 and Miss 13?” My heartfelt answer will be a proud smile. I smile because I have finally learnt that making ground on my thirteen-year-and-nine-month-old parenting goals means more than marking my relationship by clock and calendar.


Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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