It’s a heart-warming experience to watch your partner become a father. In all the years I’ve known Joel, the first and only time I’ve ever seen him cry was at the birth of our daughter. While I’m sure some of those tears were shed from overwhelm and sheer exhaustion, I know a great majority of them were from relief. Relief that I was okay, that our baby was okay and that, through an experience as unpredictable as childbirth, he could hold us both close and breathe easy when she was finally welcomed into this world.
It was that moment of crying which defined the way in which Joel loves our daughter and the way in which he fathers — with fierce protection and a loyalty to provide for our needs – to make certain we are always okay. He loves to come home and say, “I worked hard for my girls today” and I know he loves to say this not only because he has girls to work hard for, but because this role defines him in a way nothing else does.
Like me, Joel had no idea the kind of love that was possible when you have children who are yours. I’d be lying if I said that he took to the news of our pregnancy with open arms and a full heart. Like me, he was scared about losing the life he had, the freedom he enjoyed and the identity he had lost himself in. A traveller, a wanderer, a free-spirited life-grabber — the kind of traits which don’t typically gel with the roles and responsibilities of parenthood. It’s strange, to think back upon that time and the hard conversations we shared. Because today, all I see is a man so in love with a little girl, that it’s hard to imagine we ever contemplated a life without her.
His eyes change when he is around her. There is a light in them he never had before, and sometimes after she’s gone to bed at night, he’ll turn to me and say, “I miss Squids already”. I beg him not to wake her and get her out of bed, because I can see that’s what he’s thinking, so he asks instead to see any photos of her I’ve taken during the day. We sit there sometimes, looking back through photos and gushing about her for ages, saying things like, “and then she went down the slide all on her own”, or “and then she said three words together like a proper sentence“, or “look how cute she looks in that dress”, and on and on we talk, like only parents of the child could bear.
This year, Ella was old enough to get involved in Father’s Day festivities, and so we began our first annual Father’s Day traditions. As always, it was exciting for me to carry the torch of tradition for how our family celebrates special dates on our annual calendar. It’s such a privilege to write the first chapters of our family’s lives in this way — to paint the picture of This is us. This is what we do. This is how we make things special.
A trip to the two dollar shop. Ella was allowed $15 to spend on whatever gifts she wanted to buy for her daddy. It is a tradition we will definitely keep because the fun we had in running through the aisles, me laughing at the things Ella chose, and then watching the look on Joel’s face as he uncovered the random assortment of treasures, well, it was priceless.
Making wrapping paper. One unclothed little girl, a whole heap of paint and big sheets of butchers paper = a really fun afternoon.
After all, special treasures need special paper to be wrapped in.
Treasure hunting. This one’s not so much a Fathers Day tradition but an every-special-occasion-involving-gifts tradition. We do treasure hunts for birthdays, for Christmas presents, for Mothers and Fathers Day and it never, ever gets old.
The treasures for our First Annual Father’s Day Tradition were:
- 1 bag of craft feathers
- 1 collapsible camping bucket
- 1 roll of blue checkered ribbon
- 1 packet of erasers in the shape of thongs
- 2 magnetic clips for the fridge
Everything Joel wanted, really.
Tonight, as I was putting Ella to bed, Joel came in to say goodnight. He gave her a kiss and his voice softened, like it always does when he’s saying something to her with love. “Thanks for a great day today sweetheart”, he said. “Thanks for making me a Dadda.”
And I swallowed back the lump in my throat because, well, it was beautiful.
Happy Fathers Day