There are hills surrounding Hobart that shouldn’t be attempted without crampons and ropes. Building on the side of such precipices affords extensive vistas over the city and beyond to a succession of mountains or ocean horizon. The gentler slopes also made for a great proving ground for my daughters as toddlers when gravity plucked hold of them to propel them forward while their trainee legs worked to get ahead of their momentum.

I used to coast alongside my daughters, anticipating a tumble made of the awkward gait of a youngster whose arms and legs weren’t yet operating in sync.

Parenting with the Right Rhythm

As a parent, every now and then I find myself struggling to find my own dad sweet spot where all my parenting limbs are in good order, finely honed and moving in smooth cohesion. I liken my efforts of grocery shopping, homework, work, theme parks, meditative solitude, hectic sporting schedules, birthday parties, and demanding school routines to the flailing arms and legs of my adored daughters while they were learning their running skills.

Even as I write, I contemplate the morning fun and frenzy that starts with, “Hop out of bed! What do you want for brekkie?” and runs to the last tight squeeze of school drop-off. My headspace is trying to create a sense of coordinated effort in nuggeting school lunches, ironing school shoes, laying out uniforms for breakfast, urging homework to be stashed under their pillow, prompting for their PJs to be shoved into school bags and putting pencils into the sink.

I am happy to own the sense that my mind is busy because much of it comes from wanting my children to absorb the good things with which they are surrounded, as much as possible. I want my children to understand and appreciate the freedom in attending a school without fear of air-raid sirens, to eat vegetables of amazing colours, and that their water is automatically heated, with surrounds of incredible natural beauty and a variety of adventures to explore.

Love for Learning

As a child, I loved exploring. I would leaf endlessly through the pages of encyclopaedias and consume textbooks on aviation and planes as often as I wrestled through the bush behind my childhood home. I feasted on facts, felt comfortable leaving walking tracks and measured myself by Trivial Pursuit wins. Even now, I graze on Wikipedia because I like to inhale information.

So, when my daughter mentioned on a recent Friday night that she had to write a couple of comments about some early gold-hunting Australian settler, I saw the opportunity for lots of learning. My exuberant parenting limbs set off with an excited momentum down the learning slope of Edward Hargraves’ life. Yes, I get excited by learning. Yes, I like sharing learning with my daughters.

Pretty soon, I had one excited limb frantically clicking through the millions of Google search results to help with homework that had to get done. My enthusiasm for learning started to bump against my daughter’s homework allergy and we missed the simplicity of the exercise. It was a great blessing then, to have my daughter’s teachers reflect on the Hargraves assignment and give me a caring reminder to balance homework time with connection time.

Quality Time

As the teachers and I chatted, I was gifted with a new realisation of the strength of our common interest in my daughter’s wellbeing. I felt excited that she has a great ally in her teachers, at the same time being so grateful for the gentle honesty the teachers offered in their reminder to balance my enthusiasm for learning with time spent being present and connected to my girls. I have taken their advice to heart.

Consequently, tonight has been blissful. It helped to have prepared dinner last night. We stuck just to the school-set homework and lounged in beanbags while indulging in the almost non-existent treat of watching some TV over dinner. I had time to be with my daughters as they wrote a thank-you letter to a cousin who hosted the most elegant morning tea when we recently visited. We had space in our evening for doing the family stuff of just being.

It is late now, but I feel set up with joy to call my night “done!” I wrap up with the heart-bursting satisfaction of a great tally of hugs and a full count of “I love you, Daddy!”


Photo by Tom Fisk.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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