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 lunching with his mates. Generally 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 believes he did the best he could at the time and there is no point in agonising over what cannot be changed. As he says, there are 365 days of the year on which to talk to each other and show you care.
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 is the first to admit that he isn’t the most demonstrative, read that as ‘hugging’, type of man, 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.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a father or mother, being a parent is equal parts fun, hard work, lonely, terrifying and exhilarating. You will never stop being a parent no matter how old you grow as my Grandmother told me when she was 100 years old and still worrying about her girls.
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 your birth when you were forced to leave the home that you and your mother shared but you had to make room for the others. When you left home we suffered a terrible emptiness that only gets filled when we talk with you.
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. I have adored being a mother and a father. However, there are some points that I 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 meal 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 your friends to my company.
Being chased around the house, wearing a hat made from newspaper and 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 someone else’s line.
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 and joke 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 and champagne.
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 asked for advice on their complicated love life and realising that they and you are the same – human and frail.
In my mind father’s day is just another day to talk with each other, toasting our strengths and our peculiarities.