Becoming a Dad is a relatively simple process, being a Dad is much harder.
A chance remark from my son on father’s day when he handed me a card, led me to ponder the question, what it is to be a Dad. The remark was ‘Sorry – I couldn’t find a card that said part-time Dad!’, a playful (I hope) reference to the fact that I haven’t been ever present in his life. I have two children and I’ve lived about 150 miles apart from both of them for much of their lives.
The experience of becoming a Dad was, quite simply, the single most exquisite and wonderful moment in my life, but sadly, my marriage floundered soon after the birth of my second child. Because of the circumstances surrounding that, I’ve always carried the burden of failure with me and that’s not something I find easy to forgive myself for, being such an idealist about life.
Despite the physical distance between us, I was determined to play what part in their lives that I could. I did all of absent Dad stuff graduating from McDonalds’ ‘Happy Meals’ through Pizza Hut to proper restaurants, took them bowling and got to see a lot of truly awful films. It was far from ideal for any of us, I’m sure, but those precious moments with them were my bedrock.
I think I became a better Dad, ironically, when I became a stepfather to a teenager in my last marriage. She, through her irreverent disregard for my repressive ideal of what life should be like, taught me greater patience and a better understanding of what’s trivial. As a result I like to think I became a little less grumpy! She’s grown up now with two wonderful children whom I adore and I hope that I will always play a part in her life too.
My own children have grown up now and have their own lives and we’re free to have a different kind of relationship. I’m still their Dad but it’s more a relationship between adults. They all learned long ago that I’m far from perfect and they know my strengths and weaknesses as I do theirs.
I can’t claim to be a great Dad, or even a good one, but remarkably, despite everything and my doubts about how good or bad a Dad I’ve been, all three love me anyway. Well, they say they do!
How did that happen?