With Father’s Day coming up we asked a coupla men to talk about fatherhood
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg
Dads get a bum wrap. For every strong independent single mom character we get an Al Bundy, a Homer Simpson and whatever the name of the Dinosaurs dad was, Not The Mamma! It’s fine though, mock us mercilessly for leaving the toilet seat up, we don’t mind, we can take a joke. Because being a dad is all about having a sense of humour. First you give up creative control of your life when you succumb to dad jeans and trade in your bachelor pad for a suburban digs that comes complete with a dog and a yard and a pool, which means that you obviously need a sensible vehicle to commute from this new suburban home to the place where you spend 10 hours a day in order to pay for everything... And then because you leave the house when it’s still dark and you come home when it’s dark and never actually see your family during the week, weekends must be spent doing “family time”, something that almost never includes doing any of the fun things you used to do before you became a dad. Wait, let's rein things in and focus on the positives. It’s not that bad, fatherhood. In fact, putting out another version of yourself into the world is something every man should do at least once, because it’s only then that he’ll realise that there’s something more important in life than he is. But don’t take our word for it; this is what these rad dads had to say…
I can’t imagine a version of me without my son. All those trite clichés about parenthood are real. Viewing life without a child is a very selfish endeavor. Everything you do you do for yourself. But that changes when you have a kid. Plus my kid is such a great kid. He gives me no problems. Highest marks in school. Very well behaved. Star runner. He loves to travel and has been around the world with me more times that I can count. I had a great dad, but he had four kids and a wife that, I dunno if he ever really liked her. Uhm, lets just say they had a less than ideal relationship, that’s the most euphemistically I can put it. So he had all those distractions. Whereas with me and Owen, he is my focus. Then there’s the fact that I’m only 16 years older than he is. More like an older brother. I mean, I have close friends who are 16 years older than I am. So I think that helps too. After you’ve had kids, looking back at your life without children seems like a very selfish existence. But when you have kids there’s always a reason to do something. Reach further. Do more. Be better. I have an energy source in my kiddo that ensures that I’m being the best version of myself that I can be.
* Casey from the internet makes DIY videos that get millions of views. He has added a second child to his collection since this interview. Congrats Casey!
The 'Joys of Fatherhood' you ask? Well, it sure is a mixed bag. A veritable cornucopia of emotions, experiences, triumphs, failures, highs and lows, stretching your resolve, patience and heart to places you never thought possible. When asked about the ‘joys’ of fatherhood, you can’t simply articulate the extent and scale of what that answer may hold. The first thing any seemingly self-actualised and honest father will do is blurt out a disclaimer: “I’m no expert on this…” and “my wife is the real parent here…” will be the usual riposte. And that may be the reality - especially when your kids are in the thick of the nurturing zone. I know that my two (Jack, 7 & Ivy, 4) are still far more dependant on mom’s love and care than figuring out how to balloon with bubblegum or make a chlorine bomb, but my moment to shine is dawning. And as we all know, it’s not all Hallmark cards and Shutterstock picnics. There are tough times. Trying times that test your relationship, and underline how much better at this a mother is. And then of course there are the fears. The 'what ifs' that keep you awake at night. Will I be able to provide for them? Am I doing this right? Is my kid ‘okay'? Will they get through life unscathed? What type of a world have we selfishly brought them into? What is the future of this country and will they have a part to play in it? Think about it too long and you will have to self-medicate with a few stiff shots. But then there are the moments. We all know them. Those sneaky little buggers that catch you off guard and dismantle your resolve reducing you to an emotional ball of mush. The moments that open your eyes to catch a glimpse of their world. It’s the warm morning cuddle. It’s the enthused welcome home at the end of every single day. The small hand reaching across to find yours. It’s all the 'firsts’. The first smile. The first wink. The first time he managed to catch a wave and stand up all the way to the shore. The first time you catch her busting ballet moves to The White Stripes, when she thinks no-one is watching. Moments that jump to the fore every time you are asked “and how are the kids..?” Moments that fill you with a sublime sense of contentment and love. The moments you think about on the long-haul flight when you’ve had too much wine. The moments that make a 4:30am wake up call all make sense. And it has to be the same for every father. We quickly forget all 'the stuff’, as it pales in significance to 'the moments’. As Jason Lee’s level-headed character in Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky commented "the sweet ain't so sweet without the bitter.” The scale of the full impact of being a dad are defined thus. Wouldn’t have it any other way!
*Brad Armitage starts businesses that become scenes. Coffee, craft beer, guys riding café racers… all Brad. Apparently the population boom started after Brad made it cool to have kids, too.
When I found out I was to become a dad, I nearly soiled a perfectly good pair of underpants out of sheer fear. I remember it clearly. I remember thinking to myself, “You are going to be responsible for keeping a human being alive, you can barely keep yourself alive.” As the belly of my wife grew, so did my fear and doubt, and as we approached the final months, I remember surrendering to the unknown, and accepting it as an adventure I would have no control over. I have been a dad now for nearly two years, and it has hands down been the best two years of my life. Not only do these little humans think you are the absolute dog's bollocks, even when you simply put underpants on your head and dance like a fool, but you get to teach them awesome things, like peeing in the garden, and building a fire. You get to relive so much when it comes to movies and toys. I’ve watched The Jungle Book about 100 times in the past two months and, let me tell you, that is a solid gold classic! Not only do I get to experience the sheer joy of him unwrapping an awesome box of Lego, but I get to play with it WITH him, and show him how much fun building and creating can be. Being a dad is something I never knew would be this rewarding, and is something you cannot ever put into words no matter how hard you try. There will be nights when you sleep for maybe an hour, and then endure swift kicks to the groin, because your kid can only be dreaming he is fighting ninjas… but it is all worth it when you wake up at three in the morning feeling him curled tight in your arms looking for the comfort and security only his dad can provide.
*Nic is half of Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues and his tattoos and mustache get him weird looks from all the other dads at the monkey bars.
No matter who you are, nobody can quite explain the discombobulating emotional rollercoaster it is becoming and being a dad. One thing is for certain, it's deeply personal and undoubtedly a different bag of chips for each new father, and I would imagine, with each new child. Every day is new, every hour is different, every minute is an adventure. The challenges are obvious but the rewards aren’t, a smirk on the changing table just before the pee starts flying can disintegrate the lack of sleep from the previous few nights in a flash... Plenty of fears, but most of all just wanting to be there, to provide, to answer, to share, to engage and to be a part of this little creature’s life. It would all be so impossible without Mamma Bear though, the glue.
*Blaise has been contributing to street culture ever since he founded lowbrow art gallery, The Bin. He's now working as operations manager at Seed Experiences.