When we found out that my wife was expecting our firstborn, I made a conscious decision then and there that I was going to be the perfect father. In fact, legends would be written about my perfectness, people would reverently whisper my name in the hallowed halls of daddyhood, knowing that no one would ever reach my level of epicosity for generations to come.
It was going to be easy too. I’d read all the books, joined a daddy internet group, received all the advice in the world and, as an ex-kid, I knew all the mistakes NOT to make.
What could possibly go wrong? Right?
The euphoria lasted until about the point that we brought Nicnac home from the hospital. Suddenly, the life changing reality of “oh my God, I’m a father” set in and we had a son who wouldn’t sleep, was really difficult when it came to breast feeding, wouldn’t sleep, cried all the time, (did I mention the sleep thing?), had to get his nappy changed constantly and, please for the love of all things holy, MAKE THIS CHILD SLEEP!!!!!
And that was when my cleverly thought out plan went horribly askew.
I realised that in order to be the perfect father, I’d need to sleep sometime but that’s not easy when you’re working a full day and come home to a wife who is also exhausted and desperately needs a break from the baby. So there you are again. Exhausted at 2am and wondering why your son won’t stop crying and go to sleep and is it normal to want to get in your car and drive away forever?
See, I’d set myself up for failure from the very start. For the very simple reason that the perfect father doesn’t exist.
I’ll say it again. He doesn’t exist. A myth. As real as unicorns, dragons and Jenny McCarthy’s breasts.
And it’s even worse at the beginning. When you start believing every success story you read or take to heart the “Why isn’t he/she crawling/walking/talking/sleeping yet (choose applicable)” comments, you start to doubt yourself because you’re judging yourself by other people’s standards or achievements. You set the bar too high and it becomes less of a challenge and more of a burden.
I recently joined the most amazingly supportive group of fathers on Facebook and I asked them the question, “What makes a perfect dad” and I got some wonderful responses. Patience. Living by example. Unconditional love. Being present and involved in their lives.
But for me, as I listen to my three healthy, well adjusted, happy children try to kill each other in the next room, it’s this. I will never be the world’s most perfect father, but I will be the most perfect father in their world.