A few weeks ago, on an impulse and wanting to share a snapshot of my post-separation status, I wrote a part-whimsical, part-serious piece about the worst parts of being a single dad. By implication, if some parts are worst, then there must be some best bits, says my cerebral dialogue.

Voice Number One says the best bit is simply being a dad. Voice Number One ignores the “single” tag and just sees “dad”. This voice delights in the joy of being a very present parent.

My pragmatic Voice Number Two cautions that there is hard work and adversity in being a single dad. Voice Number One agrees and argues there are always gems on the flip side. It reluctantly admits that sometimes these gems take some effort to mine.

Glass Half-Full

I side with Voice Number One. Being a dad is the greatest. Being a dad asks me to step up my character to gift my children with teaching, coaching, demonstrating integrity and service to others, and simply being present for their laughter, hugs, tears, anxiety and achievements.

Being a dad really is the best after patiently riding out a storm of surliness to discover a peaceful lull on the other side. I am lifted to my parenting happy place when one of my children can voice their own pride at something they have achieved. I love seeing my children growing in maturity, making decisions that take account of others. For me, there is great joy in being an active dad.

On separation, I had a sharp realisation that some friends we shared as a married duo had split out to become her friend or my friend. While that initially smarted, I also formed loyal new friendships that came from people wanting to care for and support me. It wasn’t my style to call for help, but friends came anyway to load the removalist truck or mind the kids or take me out for a drink.

The shame of separation and my stubborn will to fix things on my own gave over to welcoming new friends. I adapted to being deeply open and vulnerable, which set the bedrock of personal intimacy for new relationships. Formed of deep trust, these newer relationships are as dear to me as the friendships of a couple of mates whom I have kicked around with since primary school. The deeper caring of hearty friends is a bright gem.

Learning New Skills

Prior to separating, I was an ill-crafted caricature of a kitchen cook. I could distinguish a pot from a wok and serve a reasonable roast; however, my cooking contribution was limited. Now, I get cheered on by my daughters when I plate a winner. The winners sometimes take multiple efforts to get right, and are then rolled out for consecutive nights.

Being single created the circumstances for me to experiment in the kitchen, taking some inspiration and ideas from Jamie Oliver to Master Chef, and feeling really chuffed when my daughters critique my cooking creation as “awesome.”

While I yearn for more face-to-face dad time with my daughters, I have adapted to the time between hugs as my peaceful Shangri-La. I have put time, meditation and prayer into settled resting in that time of wondering what Miss 7 and Miss 12 are up to. I am most alive when putting parenting into practice, yet now also thrive in the hiatus of my parenting reset.

Life Lessons

Uncovering the humility to be able to say, “I could have done better… I will practice being better” is a gift to my daughters. At times, I have tended to be the parental authority rather than the wise sage, guide or coach. I have honed the ability to listen (and it is a work in progress) to what my daughters might be saying in their grumpy words or unresponsive distance.

My old version of dad had to fix things. I diagnosed some of my children’s behaviour as needing fixing, and when I called in my tools of consequence-setting, I ultimately converted my relationship fender-bender into a crumpled front end.

There was a time that some soft bean-bag and TV time would be a long way off the menu when the little misses were out of shape. However, the stretch-out in the bean bag often allows for me to snuggle alongside, which typically bumps up to a small head resting on my chest, to a snuggle and the beautiful eye contact of a smile from the heart. Who would have thought that I could wrest a fix without actually proposing a fix? There is a brilliant gem in allowing my daughters to mine their own happy place.

My children’s happy place is my happy place. At times, I have tried to craft it, and sometimes the TV and popcorn combination works. My wisdom gem is that the happiest place doesn’t need to be manufactured, as it exists in any place where I listen earnestly to my children.

I wake each day with great intent for my parenting apprenticeship, and am okay to forgive myself for being too quick to holler orders or cut off pizza-for-dinner questions.

On the other side of the forgiveness reset is the parenting bliss of wholehearted connection, most apparent at the end of the week or at bed-time-reading. The you-are-the-best smiles are the parenting affirmation that is the best gift for this dad.

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Photo by Luana Freitas.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

One Comment

  1. Kaylene Emery February 26, 2023 at 9:16 am - Reply

    I can’t stop smiling as I read you’re offering Greg……respite from our current universal challenges.
    May God continue to bless you n the kids.

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