Being Dad

I still feel like I’m winging it

Eloise, me, and Imogen earlier this year.

It’s hard to believe today is my eighth father’s day. Eloise is now seven and a half and Imogen recently turned four. I know it’s a cliché, but these years of fatherhood have flown by faster than I could ever have imagined. I feel so blessed. There’s no other way of saying it than to say that my two girls feel like the most incredible gift. These years as a father have been the most rewarding – and challenging, naturally! – of my life.

I will never forget the first night we brought Eloise home from the hospital. Rachel and I headed upstairs to bed at around 10pm. We got into bed and placed Eloise – who was wide-awake – in between us. We gazed at her, amazed as this beautiful new life we’d made. And then we gave each other the knowing look of terror: what on earth do we do with this baby?!

Nothing can prepare you for this moment of realising a totally dependent baby is solely your responsibility to keep alive – and hopefully, over time, turn into a fully-functioning human being.

I’d read plenty of parenting books before Eloise arrived and gleaned wisdom from numerous other parents, but nothing quite gave me all the answers I’d hoped for. These babies are frustratingly unique! A discovery that became all the more apparent when Imogen arrived and none of the tactics we’d developed for Eloise worked with her. Sigh.

All these years later I still feel like I’m winging it. Making it up as I go along. Every new stage, every new development, it’s always something that requires me to adapt and learn. There is no such thing as arrival when it comes to parenting. Just when you think you’ve figured something out, a whole new situation knocks on the door.

Parenting is hard work…and it’s wonderful. It’s exhausting…and it’s thrilling. It wears you down…and it lifts you up. Children bring you to the end of yourself…and then send you souring like an eagle. It would be a lie to say I love every minute of it, but there of moments of shared joy with each of my girls every single day that I would not trade for anything in the world.

Fatherhood has also been massively revealing about myself. Though marriage was a good start in helping to make it clear how selfish I was, fatherhood took it to a whole new level. Parenting requires a level of dedication to the life of another that exposes every ounce of selfishness within me. Not only that, it draws to the surface issues that you never knew were there. Like impatience. And anger.

I watch myself react to an incident with one or both of my girls at times and wonder: who am I? What have I become?!

But I’m grateful for the revelation. Slowly but surely, fatherhood is teaching me more about myself and – hopefully – making me into a better person.

Most of all though, I am just grateful I get to love and live my life with my two creative, brave, fun, and beautiful girls. They make my life so much more fulfilling and I just hope that, as they teach me so much about my own life, I might at least be able to pass something onto them that helps them live their lives to the full and become all they can be.

A father’s love

A divided nation