Ode to Dads

I have long felt good dads get a bad rap. Sure, there are a lot of dodgy fathers out there, not paying maintenance, ignoring or generally making their kids feel horrid about themselves... but surely that’s all the more reason to celebrate the great ones?

Much has been written about how we are born into a mother tongue, only to spend the rest of our lives trying to minimise or cordon off the more female, containing, community parts of ourselves while we focus on perfecting the more individualistic, direct father tongue... and few would argue that this is a good thing.

So why are we so unsupportive of fathers behaving more maternally? Why do we whisper about the lone dad sitting along the wall of ballet class or wonder why that father pushing a toddler laden trolley around Pick n Pay on a weekday is “unemployed”?

If we want our children to grow up into balanced, loving adults, we have to change society not only to accept dominant, commanding women but also gentle, nurturing men. And changes that vast always need to start in your heart.

So this June, my heart swells with pride and gratitude for the many wonderful, goofy, highly flawed and terribly fabulous men in my life. Thank you:
  • To my own father, for weeping with such abandon, real joy and soft pride at my graduations. The look of open love on his face is one of my clearest, warmest memories.
  • To my husband Andreas, for painstakingly shaping and icing so many number birthday cakes over the years. It can’t be easy covering a cake in Smarties with such a strict adherence to a particular colour sequence.
  • To my father-in-law, for letting my sons help him build things, even though their help often significantly reduces the quality of the construction in question. And for quietly fixing any problems late at night, before the boys notice.
  • To my uncle John, for telling the most intricate bedtime stories with more knights, fairy princesses, ogres and castles than you could swing a lance at. They didn’t ever have endings, but it didn’t matter in the least... watching John bug his eyes every time he used the word “magic” was entertainment enough for any room full of pyjamaed cousins.
  • To my younger brother Sean for playing more consecutive games of Monopoly with his nephews than any other uncle in the history of Uncledom, without winning a single one.
  • To my older brother for being able to keep a tickling giggling fit game going for so long that my sons actually say. “Uncle Quent, enough... you’re going to wet your pants.”
  • To Patrick, for orchestrating the most fabulous boat building games at Quill’s birthday party, and for making the fact that most didn’t float into part of the fun.
  • To Geoff, for spending a sleepless night lying on the hard ground but never telling my sons that their mother had forgotten to pack them camping pillows and that the ones they were using to sleep on were actually his.
  • To Bryan, for carrying Benj on his shoulders whenever he gets the opportunity and appearing genuinely disappointed every time he has to put him down.
  • To Terry, for letting Joey make all his decisions whenever we play poker, even if that means ridiculously over or under betting.
  • To Alistair, for waking up bright and early to play Munchkin Fu with my sons whilst camping at a music festival, despite only getting to bed an hour earlier and being so miserably hungover that he drank two litres of water during the hour-long game.
With these simultaneously small and terribly large things, these men are teaching my sons how to be nice people, rather than great men... and I can’t thank them enough for that. Here’s hoping that you too take a moment this Father’s Day to applaud and appreciate not only the Hallmark measure of your men, but also the soft, gentle things they do when they don’t think anyone is watching, which make you love them inside out.
This column first appeared in Child magazine.

Who are the good men in your child’s life?

More by Sam Wilson

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