On the journey of fatherhood, there may come a time when you feel like a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest – useless.
That feeling could well come when the children are teenagers. In my case, with daughters aged 18 and 15, I’m at the point where I’m surplus to requirements. The kids walk past without seeing me; they don’t ask me anything; they don’t seek my help, nor come to me with problems.
I am invisible… except when they need a chauffeur.
Once I was their hero. I could do no wrong, and they thought I was capable of the impossible. They bragged to their friends about me, wanted to be seen with me, to have me read to them, to take them to the park, to help with their homework. The demands were never-ending. When something broke, they’d say: “Oh, Dad can fix that!” – it didn’t matter what it was.
That’s your job as a father: to keep your kids believing you can do anything, for as long as possible.
Occasionally they came to me with something so hopelessly shattered I groaned internally. Not because I was worried they would cry when I told them I couldn’t fix it, but because I knew I’d be spending hours patiently, delicately, gluing it back together.
Because that’s your job as a father: to keep your kids believing you can do anything, for as long as possible.
As with Santa, there will come a time when they stop believing. The rose-tinted glasses will shatter, and they may not like what they see. In my case, it’s a 50-year-old man who limps and shuffles when he gets out of bed until the blood slowly flows into damaged limbs. From the merely human, I fear I’ve slipped to sub-human status. That’s the point when your children put their toothbrush in a separate holder so’s not to be contaminated with your vile germs.
They will not be seen in the street with you; because you’re outdated, outmoded, outcast.
It’s only a passing phase. Accept it with equanimity, make light of it with them. In time they will discover that life is bloody hard, at which point you’ll be in the next phase of the relationship.
In the fullness of time, they will hopefully come to realise that the very reason they had a great childhood was because you made yourself into a human shield, taking blow after blow just to keep the smile on their face.
The job you hated but kept going to, day after day – not for yourself, but for them.
The times you held your tongue and your fists when you wanted to rip your boss a new one – again, you did it for your children.
If they come to know this, you’ll be greater in their eyes than you ever were when they were children. They’ll have come to know the meaning of sacrifice.