When I was a few years younger, I would ride my push bike to work regardless of the weather. I did a full season of bitterly cold Hobart’s darkest winter mornings that gave me the full spread — thumping rain, a dusting of snow and dodging tree parts from a storm the night before. My biggest discovery of that season was that whinging did not ever make it easier.

The situation was very clear to me: I had to get to work. In the throes of separation, it was harder to ask for a lift than to roll out of bed, into my riding costume and onto the bike. Whinging only made the ride worse, so I didn’t.

Quiet Joy

Fortunately, I tend to optimism, so I could feel the pleasure of the quiet me-time as I pushed into the pedals and could become gratefully meditative as I turned the cranks. That Hobart winter really strengthened me for my pending separation and beyond.

Despite the stinging sharpness of the cold, I found that I could always find something pleasurable in the ride or the satisfaction of arriving at work. It became a challenge to source new pleasures: the on-arrival coffee, hot shower, new fastest time, overtaking a car, smiling at the regular pedestrians, laughing at the “you’re mad” comments from colleagues.

Sometimes finding joy was a challenge — however, I love a challenge.

Gratitude

In turn, my ongoing challenge is helping my two daughters to find their own joy in their day. Typically, there is a fair bit of drudgery in getting out of bed, having to wear a school uniform, going to school or suffering lunch-box sandwiches.

Yet, it is a tough expectation that my children tune into the perspective I can get when I consider the dreadful conditions of being in detention on Manus Island or the circumstances that might compel people to seek out a safe haven in new homelands.

They are still a bit too young to understand the luxury we have. Even our fairly basic environment is a vast indulgence when considered alongside the accounts we have heard from Sudanese and Rwandan families we have befriended.

So, I try to keep it simple.

Count the Blessings

We have started playing our own happy game of sorts. While in the car on the way to drop-off to their mum, we take it in turns to name an awesome thing from our weekend and continue the rounds until we exhaust our list of awesome.

The blue of blueberries and the red of strawberries. Pancakes for breakfast. Nan’s homemade cordial. Seeing God’s fingers (the streams of light breaking through clouds). Seeing a rainbow. Ice cream. Banana smoothies. Homemade gnocchi.

Getting all the right answers on a maths homework sheet. Tickle wrestles. Games of Uno. Bushwalking on Mt Wellington and discovering hidden huts. Catching up with friends. Reading the laugh-out-loud antics of the Magic Pudding.

Hot chocolate with friends. Dad hugs. Stars. Seeing horses. The little lizard sunning himself outside the front door. Our game is another way I try to put myself into their heart so that they have a dad top-up, enough to stay with them over the time we aren’t together.

Surprises

In my world, discovering awesome things uncovers joy. My experience is that the best versions of joy can come from the most incidental, out-of-the-blue circumstances.

We got to have one of those joy-moments in the most unexpected ways last weekend. My girls were going through a can’t-get-enough-of-dad phase, climbing affectionately all over me. My eldest was sitting on my shoulders and I helped her tumble in a somersault forward, landing on my bed.

Of course, it was fun enough that my daughter wanted to go round two. This time around, her heavy landing resulted in a loud, sharp crack. Our mucking around had broken a wooden slat on my bed.

After the immediate scare of believing I had helped break my daughter’s arm, we both chuckled a nervous stutter before launching into a hearty laugh, not at having broken something, but at the silliness of what we had done.

It was a very healthy, raucous laugh. It was a laugh I felt deep in my chest, and it had a radiant warmth.

I led first by adding that moment to the awesome list. My sweet daughter replied: “I was going to say that!”

The best quality of that type of joy is that it lasts the full week until I am back with my girls. We don’t have to be face to face, yet I get to be held in their hearts in the most precious of ways.

In the same way, I hold my girls when I can’t be with them. I like that type of joy, appreciate its warmth, and gratefully acknowledge that being a dad is such a marvellous privilege.

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Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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