When I received a phone call at 6:35 this morning I was greeted with the question “What’s your story?” My response was “I guess I’m like many fathers. I wasn’t particularly interested in kids, and didn’t really mind if I didn’t have any, until my two gorgeous daughters came along. Now I’m completely besotted and have thoroughly loved being a father.”
Aaron Kearny has been doing the Story Box on 1233 (our local ABC radio station) since May 2012 and I was person number 565. Yesterday I was given a box with a phone in it and this morning Aaron rang the phone to discover the story of the person on the other end. I now have to pass the phone on to somebody so that the Story Box can continue.
We had a great chat about being a father. (You can listen to the interview here.) Cathy and I were married for 14 years before we had our first daughter. We had been trying for over six years and it seemed unlikely that we would be able to have any so we decided that once we hit 40, that would be it and we wouldn’t try any more. Jasmine snuck in with a bit over 7 months to spare!
From the start I wanted to be a really active father. Cathy and I talked about how it was important that I was actively involved and that I didn’t want to “help”. This meant that I had to take responsibility for the kids, but at the same time she had to allow me to do things my way, and to make mistakes. If she was always telling me what to do (which happens all too often with parents) I was helping her rather than taking responsibility. It is a two-way street. I had to show that I would show initiative and put the kids first, and she had to let me have a go.
We’ve really made parenting a priority. I was doing studying full-time when Jasmine was born, and my study certainly suffered as a result. I had less time to devote to it and my mind was often elsewhere, but I did complete it and, because it was a research degree (i.e., no lectures), I was around a great deal. It was a wonderful start to being a Dad.
When the kids were babies, I used to worry that I’d leave them on a bus or at the shops! I have been known to leave my guitar, laptop, phone, keys etc., etc. in strange places so it was a reasonable concern, but fortunately I managed to avoid even coming close to forgetting them.
I’ve been lucky that the Family Action Centre (where I work) takes being family friendly seriously so I have been able to be actively involved in the girls’ schools, attend important events, take time off if needed and work flexible hours. They have also allowed me to only work four days/week, even though they would prefer me to work full-time, which also means that I have more time to be a father.
We’ve want to help them to be confident in making decisions so from an early age we have encouraged them to make decisions for themselves. When they were little we would do things like let them choose between two sets of clothes, or pick three vegetable from a list of five. As they grow older they can make more and more decisions for themselves. Closely linked to this is a belief that parenting is a continual process of letting go. This is particularly important in the area of making decisions. We really hope they will have a deep commitment to social justice, the environment and ethics, but finally we need to allow them to live their own lives. We hope that by giving them practice at making good decisions, as they get older they will make good decisions for themselves. Hopefully this will stand them in good stead as they face decisions about alcohol and other drugs, boys (or girls), work, religion and so on.
Fathering has changed a great deal over the last 50 years and will continue to change. When I see fathers who put their work first, who see parenting as being mainly the responsibility of mothers or who don’t have close relationships with their kids, I feel sorry for what they are missing out on. I’m glad I’ve been in the position where I can build a close relation with Jasmine and Alexa and to be an active part of their lives.
If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:
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