To understand Father’s Day, you must first understand being a father. Sound obvious? It is. What’s less obvious is this: in order to fully understand being a father, you have to fully understand being someone’s child.
It’s taken me more than thirty years - and the birth of my own daughter - to realise this. And it kills me to admit it.
Let’s contextualise this a bit:
Becoming a Dad makes you look at your relationship with your own. It’s natural. Looking at mine, I can say a few things. Firstly, I am the luckiest dude I know. My old man has been the ultimate role model. Now, before you pass out from a violent eye-roll, let me back that up. I’m not just saying that. My dad is literally the first person I talk to for advice. Advice on business strategy? I call him. Advice on financial investments? I call him. Advice on marriage? I call him. Advice on cars, or DIY or technology? I call him. (That’s a joke. My dad is fucking hopeless with stuff like that). The point is this: my dad is there for me. Unconditionally and unequivocally. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. Memories of him throwing a cricket ball to me in the nets - until it was so dark we struggled to find our way back to the car - are as vivid as last year when he shook my hand and asked me to sign a copy of the book I had written. Despite my best efforts, he bought that book for full price. He said he was proud of me and he wanted to support me. I wish I had told him there and then that he’s been supporting me my whole life. Even if he doesn’t know it.
So, why the regret? Well, I can’t say the opposite is true. I’ve been a bit of a shit, more times than I’d like to remember. With a textbook family as my rock, life always came easy. Taking things for granted along the way, I coasted and cruised my way through school. Varsity was a joke. I did nothing. Nothing. I was almost committed to being as non-committal as I possibly could be. Drinking too much, partying too hard. Despite it all, there he was. Unwavering in his love and generosity. Then there were the early 20s. More parties. More worry but also more encouragement. And then there was the whole I’m-leaving-the-cushy-job-to-open-a-butchery-thing. (He has been Frankie Fenner’s biggest fan since day one, by the way. I think he still is…)
Since becoming a Dad, what has changed? A lot, to be honest. I feel like - only now - do I really understand. The selflessness. The love. The responsibility. The love that swells up inside you and spills out, manifesting as panic. My dad has done everything in his power to protect me and to give me a better life. Now it’s my turn. I wish I could go back in time and try harder. I wish I could go back in time and not only see him cheering on the side of a freezing cold rugby pitch but really SEE HIM CHEERING ON THE SIDE OF A FREEZING COLD RUGBY PITCH. Obviously, I can’t. What I can do - what we can all do - is look ahead.
My first father’s day as a father won’t be taken lightly. Not by me anyway. I feel like when you become a parent to a child, you become a parent to all children. You join a club. A club where empathy is the cover charge. A club where compassion is currency and it buys understanding. In this club, I’ve seen kindness that I didn’t know people had. But they’re offering it for free because they know. They know.
I’ve seen too many people who have lost their dads and won’t get to share a bottle of wine and cook a steak together today. And my heart breaks for them. I do have that luxury. I get to enjoy being a father for the first time on Father’s Day. But I get to enjoy being a son every day. And I won't be taking a single day for granted anymore. Not anymore.