A week or so back, I received a parenting tips email. The author proposed that I start the school year by getting in touch with my children’s teacher. He said I ought to get to know their teaching style, educational strategies, and understand what is expected of my children this year.

I paused to reflect on this time last year and the amazing year that my girls and I formed. It had started with a simple conversation with my girls’ teacher, so I decided that doing the same this year would prepare our school year.

Like last year, teachers could share proposed dates for school excursions. I would be able to offer to do parent help. By connecting early with teachers and other parents ,I might learn how they tackle homework issues, and I could share how I was making homework fun.

Yet, on the other side of that moment of intent, I also went back to my subversive fears that rattle my best dad plans. Pushing through those phobias set us all up for some great joys.


I started last year with a fear that it would be awkward to ask my neighbour to braid my daughters’ hair for their first day of school. I still asked — she delighted at being able to help out and the girls skipped into school, beaming with pride in their elegantly decorated hair.

My fear teased me for living in a unit, making it uncomfortable to invite the girls’ friends over. Yet, I swallowed my pride and sent out “Study Buddy” invitations to a Sunday afternoon of maths homework and a DVD. Both parents and children responded with an excitement I didn’t anticipate.

At the start of term 3, a teacher intended to praise me, saying that I am the only dad who attended parent help. Unfortunately, I heard: “Only mums do parent help.” Other people say, “You are lucky to have a job with lots of flexibility,” and I hear: “You can’t be all that busy.”

Any doubt whether I should participate in my children’s class was overruled by my girls regularly pleading, “Daddy, can you do parent help tomorrow please?”


The example set by my parents has it that dads should be at work at 8 and not leave the desk until 5, thereby missing some special moments at my children’s school. By creating my own example, I discovered that the fullest expression of joy is in the face of a daughter topped up with awe on realising her dad skipped work to catch a couple of her swimming races.

No apology or gift is big enough to soothe the disappointment of a daughter who had hoped her dad might demonstrate being her greatest fan by turning up for half an hour.

I let a tear escape when I knelt to let my daughter splash her wet swimming togs all over me in the squeeziest hug and just listened to my daughter run the stroke-by-stroke commentary on her races that I had watched and cheered her on.

My silent am-I-doing-the-right-thing voice second-guesses the templates I built to help my daughters’ writing, spelling and maths. I counter by knowing that Molly, Agnes, Abigail and other classmates have been hounding me for copies of the same homework sheets.

I told myself that I am out of line for asking other mums (and sometimes dads, but they are not out in big numbers at school) for their contact details when I just want to be able to organise a playdate with our kids. When I did make contact, I typically received an enthusiastic response.

The nagging voice in my head agitates that my daughters will be teased because I run the brown paper bag of their canteen order through my printer instead of handwriting it. However, the smiley faces printed all over that brown bag match the same smiles on my girls’ faces.

Often, the stereotypes and programmed notions I have of a dad’s role conflict with always seeking to be involved with my children’s schooling. I push through the stares of some parents who give a disapproving vibe on seeing my daughter being given a shoulder ride into school.

In doing so, I am always rewarded with a happy response from my two daughters. And I am going to be courageous and do it all over again, because I owe it to my daughters to forge strong connections with them and with those people who also care for them.

Like last year, I will be sharing deep, devoted, caring, nothing-else-matters time with my girls. Time is my great gift. Only, this year it will be even more wholehearted because we will pick up from all the great moments we achieved last year.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto.

Published On: June 11th, 20220 CommentsTags: , , , , , ,

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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