kids

The most important thing Andrew Daddo has discovered from 18 years of parenting.

Karicare+ Toddler
Thanks to our brand partner, Karicare+ Toddler

Expectation versus reality: it’s a kicker, isn’t it? How about when you apply it to raising children?

To be honest, I had literally no idea what to expect – certainly not for the first child. And then, just as we thought we knew what was coming, the second child arrived and was utterly different to the first, who turned out to be a bit more like the third, but not really.

As it turns out, they’re all different, and of course they are. I would have known that had I listened to any of the older, wiser, more experienced parents who offered unsolicited advice when they got wind of that first, impending pregnancy.

But it’s hard to hear when you’re young and excited and know everything, such is the deafness of inexperience. “They grow up so fast” and “you have to cherish every moment” only register the first few times. Submerged in the cut and thrust of the parenting muddle, they barely ring true.

Logic like that doesn’t really land on you until you step back and realise when your formerly predictable life somehow got mushy like the veggies your toddler’s after for dinner.  Weirdly, you start searching out the word “mash” at restaurants for your own dinner.  Before you know, things get solid again – and just as we think it can’t get better, it surely does.

It was stunning to know there was so much love in our hearts. Yes, this is the gentle dad in me speaking (and it’s good to be a gentle dad!).

Now I know it’s not all peaches and cream. I mean, there are moments when the kids are headless and we’re hopeless and it feels like the world’s going to hell in a hand basket. But that’s a little slice of life, right? That’s how it’s meant to be. It’s not like anyone goes to work every day and completely loves it. No-one rocks up and wants to say to the boss, “I love your face so much I just want to kiss it and lick it and blow raspberry farts in it”, do they? But we’ll do it with the kids.

How can you recognise the highs without the lows to compare them against?

As for me, well, I never thought I’d be that parent who waxes lyrical about his kids. Honestly. It’s often the most unexpected things that raise the largest lumps in the throat.

"As it turns out, they’re all different, and of course they are." Image: Supplied.

So, yes it’s great that someone’s playing in the 'A' team, or has a representative jumper for a sport. Imagine making a state squad or a national academy and how that makes us feel – they are moments for contemplation.

Funnily enough, it’s the little things that tend to make the biggest difference.  Those moments where the heart swells because "that's my kid".  And we all have our own reasons to get giddy. Just seeing them fitting in, surviving on their own sense of normal.  And seeing them get a hold of the lessons we’ve gently suggested on the way through to help make them more complete. It might be a simple thank you, or excuse me, or standing up to say hello. Little things, you know. Gentle reminders of the old lessons we learnt from our parents when we were toddlers.

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An easy smile stirs like a belly laugh. I love it when they come out with something funny or blurt a factoid that’s got their attention. To see our youngest work her magic on anything with an on/off button is a true treasure. But so is watching our middle girl float across a dance floor or our eldest haul an oar through the water. To watch them grow into their own skins, a joy.

"How can you recognise the highs without the lows to compare them against?" Image: Supplied.

I knew it was going to be great. At least, I think I knew. Who knows anything, really?

I was told often it was going to be difficult, that there’d be terrible twos and rotten teens and everything else you can imagine. Some of it was right, some of it wasn’t.

What I discovered, that I never anticipated, is that nothing should surprise us as parents.

I wish I’d written more stuff down.

There’s a fabulous, residual feeling bubbling away when I think of the whole parenting experience. Teamwork for sure. My wife’s the key, no question. And love, of course, should never go without saying. But pride’s the bit I dig. The stupidest things make me the happiest, because the stupidest things make the kids the happiest.

One of the great adventures has to be discovering what it is that lights the kids up – not being surprised, one of the great challenges. The old meddlers were right, too. This is not too fast, it’s warp speed.

I love my kids, and every new age they reach feels better than the last. I love that they’re healthy and adaptable and beyond pleasurable to be around. I’m proud of them, too.

Most of the time, anyway, and to be honest, that feels like enough.

Are you a gentle dad? Tell us about your relationship with your kids below!

If you would like to vote for Australia's Gentlest Dad, go to www.gentlefeelsgood.com thanks to our brand partner Karicare+ Toddler. T&Cs apply.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Karicare+ Toddler.

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