Father’s Day 2022

Have you ever felt that your Father’s Days aren’t quite perfect like the ones on tv or Instagram?

Celebrating your father or being a father isn’t about just one day – its about every day that we’ve had and will have with our dads and our kids – even if they’re not there.

Back in the early 2000’s I used to manage the Landline Telephony business at Optus (before most of us got rid of our home phones). Apart from Christmas, the biggest day of the year for long distance calls wasn’t Mother’s Day, it was Father’s Day. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Surely your Mum deserves a call on Mother’s Day? It turns out she deserves more. The reason Father’s Day was bigger for long distance calls was because more people would go to visit their Mum on Mother’s Day, whereas a phone call was good enough for Dad.

Ever since I became a Dad, I’ve looked forward to Father’s Day. It’s a special day, not like every other day. Hand-made presents delivered in bed by beamingly proud children. As they got older, hand delivered cups of tea or coffee arrived and then even breakfast in bed. There was normally a special lunch or dinner later on in the day as well. Having experienced this side of Father’s Day made me a lot more appreciative of my own father, and having lived overseas for many years, I made a much bigger effort to spend time with him once I was back. The first Father’s Day after he passed away in 2017 was pretty tough.

But I hadn’t realised just how much of this I was taking for granted until the year after. My wife had almost died in August 2018 when she had a heart attack while out running. She survived, but she suffered significant brain damage from lack of oxygen during the resuscitation. That changed absolutely everything in our lives.

Father’s Day came along while she was still in hospital. It snuck up on all of us. I didn’t put much thought into it during the week with everything else going on. We didn’t do anything special on that day. It was just like every other day back then. It was just like the Sunday the week before and the week after. Though it did help me realise very quickly who was behind my normally wonderful Father’s Days.

Rationally, I didn’t expect it to be like a normal Father’s Day, but somewhere deep inside, I had expectations. It was the expectations that got me. I had a crap day. My mood rubbed off on everyone else. The kids were only 8, 10 and 13 and their mum was in hospital. Their world had been turned upside down less than a month before. She was very different – they were dealing with that. It was hard to expect them to fill in for their mum. There was no special lunch or dinner. I didn’t get any special treatment. The day after that was no different, but my expectations were back to normal, so I was completely fine. It’s funny how different 2 identical days can feel. I call it the tyranny of expectations.

It took me a long time to find peace with our new life. Only when I reset my expectations was I able to move forward. It wasn’t a simple process to get there. That kind of journey doesn’t come with any sort of instruction manual. I was making it up as I went along. I journaled during the process and have recently put my thoughts and learnings together in a book – Everyday Bravery.

After looking after my wife at home for a number of years, even with the help of lots of carers, we eventually had to move her into a care home. I’m now a single Dad of 3 high school aged boys. Sure, it’s a lot of work every day, but that doesn’t matter, because it is the most meaningful thing in my life – every day is Father’s Day. The official ‘Father’s Days’ are different now. It’s not about the presents or the breakfast in bed. It’s more an opportunity to reflect on all days we’ve I’ve had with my own father and what that meant, plus all the days we’ve had as fathers, and then all the days that come. Regardless of whether our Dad is still around, or whether we have kids or not.

I still miss my Dad. Sometimes I talk to him sometimes (no … I don’t actually see him or think he’s in the room with me). But I appreciate him a lot and I love to think of that unbroken chain from my grandfather to him and then to me, that continues to my children and hopefully one day to theirs. I’m doing my bit to keep that going. Everyday. I’ll give my brother a call to wish him a happy Father’s Day and to chat a bit about Dad.

On Sunday I’ll still have a chat with my Dad, and I look forward to spending time with my 3 boys – even if I’m the one who has to organise the lunch out. I’ll do my bit to avoid the tyranny of expectations and just enjoy this day, like every other day, grateful that I am a father and that I had (and still have) a father, and that I get to spend the day with my kids which not all fathers will get to do.

Being a Dad isn’t about the presents or the breakfast. It something we do every day. Happy Father’s Day to everyone – to the Dads and those who have (or had) a Dad. Enjoy that today and enjoy it every day.

As always, whatever you do, do it with heart.

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