Modern Father

I’m going to be a father this year. The wonderful news didn’t sink in until I saw him for the first time; a pulsing flickering light upon a small monochrome monitor. When the screen faded to black I remember seeing a grinning idiot reflected before me. It was a feeling of pure pleasure, one that hasn’t been equalled in my life. Raw emotional power, fleeting and completely unexpected. I’m sure it will be trumped upon his birth, how and to what extent I cannot imagine.

I wonder whether my father ever had a chance to pause and think about the journey he was to undertake. Or was life a blur of moments, obstacles to overcome before the babies’ arrival. The reality of fatherhood not striking until a helpless newborn was held in his arms. Its’ scrunched red face and squinty eyes, completely unprepared for life, staring back at him. Chubby hands opening and closing with perfect impossibly small fingernails. At that moment was painting the nursery and installing the air conditioner far from his mind?

An active father in this day and age does a surprising amount for both his family and children. In no way does this dismiss the efforts of the wife and mother as there is no more important role in a child’s development. However the father quite often receives short shrift. He works during the day, assists with chores and cooking each night and on the weekend. Gets up for midnight feeds, changes nappies, does the grocery shopping and is meant to maintain an even keel throughout. He is a solid dependable partner in an ever changing environment. Where sleep and employment are no longer guaranteed and your children expect you to be invincible and successful.

His very presence, demeanour and attitude assist in his children’s development. Are they reserved or outlandish? Are they diligent or rebellious? How much of your child’s behaviour began with yours? Unbeknownst to many of us we have developed in his image, forming a shadow of him. Similar characteristics and mannerisms become more obvious as we age. We learn from his mistakes and the skills he displays each day. I mention this as when Father’s Day comes around each year gifts given tend to be a way of demonstrating how grateful we are without actually voicing our feelings. We share a laugh a family meal and head our separate ways without really giving thought to why we gathered in the first place. Today before leaving I intend to let my Dad know that I hope to be a great father based on his influence.

Cast your mind back over the years and the many times he has come to your aid when you needed him most. I’m sure many of his efforts will stand out. Some without thought of reward or thanks are the most memorable. It’s a chance to reminisce about days gone by. An opportunity to look back on times well spent and challenges overcome with each other’s help. Ask what Father’s Day meant to him as a child? What was his father son relationship like? It is also a chance to give him those socks or DVD, a new drill or if he’s lucky a golf Swiss Army knife. The ability to repair greens whilst scaling fish, are rarely appreciated more than today.

Does becoming a father mean you grow up in an instant or do you transition gradually from confused young man to responsible adult over time? Learning from your mistakes and those of your child as you go.

Thinking back on memories of my Dad they all revolve around him showing me skills to help with work, school or sport. I don’t ever recall any mushy scenes of affection. We have never mucked around as friends, there has always been an obvious father and son relationship. I’ll be interested to see how the demographic changes with the birth of his grandson.

He has been at every important milestone of my life and has subtly guided me to make the correct decision whenever I was unsure of which direction to turn. I hope that I can be as assured and wise with my son. Whilst at the same time enjoy his successes and support his failures.

Fatherhood must be very rewarding when you assist your son or daughter in a problem that they have expressly come to you to resolve. When they listen and learn from that experience, growing from it, becoming more bold and confident in front of your eyes.

I recall struggling to bowl in cricket at school. It was galling and frustrating to me that other boys of my age could roll their arm over so easily. I expressed my feelings as only a boy of eight could, by crying no doubt and stomping about in my Clark’s school shoes. The solution was a washing basket full of tennis balls and a crudely painted set of wickets upon a brick wall, Dad taught me to bowl. Between the water heater and the blossoming orange tree was a narrow footpath which became the centre of my world. I practised and practised and with his help I was soon a fine fast bowler. I wonder now how that must have felt, was there a sense of achievement?

You teach your children to talk, swim, ride their bike and tie their shoe laces. The list is endless, and the pleasure in watching these mini milestones must surely be more satisfying than we can imagine until it happens to us. I look forward to each of these as a father. As a son I thank my father for all the skills he’s taught me, I’m sure there are many more to come.