This morning, Julia came through to the bedroom for a love. After about three years of interrupted sleep every single night, she is now in a routine of sleeping though, or if she wakes up, is happy to go back to her own bed. Bliss!
She came and lay down next to me and I said, “You know I love you because you're so special and clever,” to which she answered, “Daddy, I love you because you're such a nice dad.”
In chick-flick fashion, my heart melted.
And isn't that what it's all about? The good, funny, special moments that make being a parent (or a dad that matters) so worthwhile?
For all the doctors' bills, tantrums and the school fees (one year's play-school fees for Julia equates to my entire 12 years of schooling PLUS University fees!), it's those special moments - the hugs, the kisses, a smile or a nice word - that make parenting what it is.
Sometimes we see married couples enjoying the excesses of their salaries, the big portion they don't have to spend on kids and think, “Wow, they're lucky.” But then, they don't have the good times to contend with.
A lifetime ago, I was a farmer. When times were good they were very good. When they were bad, they were awful. And so it is with parenting. Mia who is now a shade over 10 months old and a real joy, spent a week in hospital when she was only a month old with suspected infant sepsis. The mortality rate is about 90% Talk about bad times being awful!
But she got over it fine and is a sheer delight. We have our ups and downs like any parent with a baby, but a laugh with that one tooth wonder smile and all the bad things are forgotten.
Back to Julia and the “nice dad” bit. Fortunately, it was a heart-felt sentiment she expressed because she wanted nothing in return except reciprocal love. But I have endured the cupboard love bit as well. And the "cupboard hate".
I was at a friend's house once when his young son said to him out of the blue, “I love you Dad, can I have a sweet.” Talk about playing on emotions. I've watched Nanny 911 enough times to spot "cupboard hate" a mile away. Those kids who throw tantrums at the shopping market so they can get sweets or treats.
I've delivered stern warnings and even administered a smack behind some shelving in a particularly bad case once, but tolerating the tantrums only serves to perpetuate the behaviour. Placating a screaming kid like that is like Pavlov's Dog: your child has you salivating when he rings your bell.
It happened once – just once – when Julia decided to play that particular trick on me. Whining incessantly for this thing and that, she eventually said, “I hate you Daddy.” It was a moment I had been dreading ever since she was born - that one day she would turn on me and break my heart.
But you know what? It didn't. Just as "cupboard love" is shallow, so is "cupboard hate". She forgave me soon afterwards and didn't get her own way – mission accomplished. I felt like Tom Cruise!
Michael Marnewick is the author of the soon-to-be published (November 2010) sports book: "Quest for Glory: Successes in South African Sport" which examines sporting success through the eyes of sporting personalities. Various themes are covered, and input, anecdotes and sage advice from a number of sports’ stars enlighten and entertain the reader. The foreword is delivered by Springbok and Sharks captain John Smit.
MomsMatter will be giving away a signed copy when the book is launched in November 2010. This will make a wonderful Christmas gift idea for anyone even remotely interested in sport!