Father’s Day in Australia really isn’t a big deal in our house. Of course I’ll have my father to lunch if he isn’t playing bridge or golf with his mates or lunching with his wife of 61 years. Our children might phone in to say hi, but if they don’t, their father isn’t going to be cast into the doldrums feeling neglected. He knows he is loved.
I, like other women I know, have played father to my children. Whether it was because of long hours at work, divorce, or death there have been many times when I have had to play the traditional role of father as well as mother.
I have kicked the football, thrown the cricket ball, discussed dating and sex education and offered the ‘don’t drink and drive’ advice often to a withering scowl. I have learnt to communicate in grunts and lived with nocturnal teenagers.
My husband was in the reverse situation of playing mother to three boys and a girl. He adores them all and is immensely proud of his brood of 7 children and 10.5 grandchildren.
He is the first to admit that bring up a girl in a family of boys was a challenge. He isn’t the most demonstrative of men, (read that as hugging), but he can cook a mean brownie to take to the school rugby and is prepared to defend his daughter’s honour, even when she doesn’t want him to.
Whether you are a father or mother, being a parent is equal parts fun, hard work, lonely, terrifying and exhilarating. It isn’t a role for that can be discarded when you are tired, busy at work or disinterested. It is a job that demands everything of you, it is draining emotionally and physically and you should not expect devotion; that is for the dog. Affection must be earned.
You will never stop being a parent no matter how old you grow as my Grandmother told me when she was 100 and still worrying about her girls. My father at 90, is not above giving me advice, nor is he above competing with his grandchildren when he can.
Fatherhood is fun but the competitive nature of the man keeps coming out. He has to climb higher trees, do what his kids do and do it better. For some obscure reason lost in the Neanderthal mists, he continues to compete despite the handicaps that age eventually imposes on his body. I doubt if we women are any less good at accepting age gracefully.
I trained as a midwife and thought I was prepared for motherhood, but nothing prepares you for that gut wrenchingly complicated feeling when you hold your baby for the first time. As their stepfather says, ‘If you thought too deeply about fatherhood, you mightn’t do it.’
As a father (and mother) I accept that we are to blame as we started it all. Yes, I realise that you blame me for your separation anxiety dating from when you were forced to leave the home that you and your mother shared but you had to make room for the others. My fatherly advice is ‘Get over it.’
This is our father’s day message to you, our children. You are the most awesome, overwhelmingly frustrating and challenging thing we do in our lives and you changed us and our lives from the moment you arrived. We have adored being a mother and a father however, there are some points that we hadn’t anticipated including:
- Never having a moment of privacy again and no, you cannot always cross swords with me when I am having a pee!
- If you want to share my bath you had better stop complaining that Chanel No 5 is too girlie. There is a perfectly good shower over there that you can have on your own,
- Our dog appreciates the delicious well-balanced meals I cook every evening even if you don’t so if you don’t like what I’ve cooked, help yourself to cereal and milk,
- No, I don’t eat cold toast because the butter doesn’t melt; my toast, like all my food is always cold by the time I have cut yours up,
- Experiencing that feeling of rejection when even at 4 years old you let me know that you prefer the company of your friends to me,
- being prepared to look like a fool in public and being chased around the house wearing a hat made from newspaper shouting Ninja at the top of my voice, but why do I always have to be the baddie,
- Never catching a fish off the beach again because I am untangling little people’s lines
- Feeling utterly desperate when you are lying in a hospital bed running a fever,
- Being appalled at my wish for you to grow up so that we can talk as adults,
- Knowing where to find a hairdresser when the home dye job turns green,
- Wishing you hadn’t grown up because you are drinking too much of my whiskey,
- Being impressed when you turn up with a replacement bottle,
- Being furious that you don’t share my opinion but delighted that you have an opinion,
- Being enormously proud of your every achievement,
- Being asked for advice on your love life, knowing that you probably won’t take it and realising that we are the same – human and fallible.
For our family, father’s day is just another day to talk with each other, toast our strengths and peculiarities and take pleasure in each other’s company.