You will fail… and that’s OK
It might be in that first moment of your child’s life that it begins. Your partner has just given birth and is now exhausted, weak, and in the company of a tiny, defenceless human.
You, on the other hand, have been doing very little. What is your job?
You will have to protect them while they recover and rest from the experience.
This will set the tone for the rest of your life as a father. No matter how progressive and modern you are, that drive will remain. Keep your children safe.
And you will not succeed.
You will question your value as a man and a father when your son falls off the wall you let him climb.
You will blame yourself when your daughter trips and splits her lip open on a coffee table.
You will doubt your worth when you fail to take a sports injury or an illness seriously enough, and delay seeking medical care.
You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. You will change the rules. There is no other way. You will have to stumble your way through it.
Every decision you make will be coloured by your failures and fears and the stories you hear. Is rugby too dangerous? Is she too young to ride her bike to her friend’s house alone? How late can I let him stay out? Freak accidents and rare, fatal medical conditions will be reported in the news and will make you afraid.
You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. You will change the rules.
There is no other way. You will have to stumble your way through it. You cannot sit your children in the middle of a carpeted floor with soft toys and television, releasing them untested and immature into the world at the age of 18. You must expose them to risk and hurt and pain. I can’t reassure you that everything will be okay. It may not. Children get seriously hurt. Children die. Even the children of fathers who are strong and smart and careful.
You did not get to be the man you are by being insulated from the world, but by scraping against it and climbing through it and running into it. Your children will do the same and you will have to let them. They will get sick and injured. They will cry when they are bullied, or when their first fumbling romances end badly.
The intense, scared vigilance of the first few moments of your child’s life will be replaced with a more measured view. A good father is blind in one eye. You will learn to watch less closely.
You will start with your child in your arms. You cannot keep them there. Give them your best guidance and let them venture out.
Mike Finke, 44, is an American expatriate and proud Australian who has been living in Melbourne for 20 years.
He has two children: his daughter, Morgan, is 19 and son, Spencer, 15.