Whilst I say, ‘I know, they do, don’t they?’ I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, I just don’t see it.’ Over the last few months, though, that’s started to change.
Theo’s six this summer. When he was younger he went through a phase of really not liking me (that’s a story for another day), but now we’ve become incredibly close. We spend most of our weekends playing together.
I’m still on my phone a lot; I still get fed up; I still work; and I still play golf. But in between all that we play, and we play hard.
Just before Christmas we had some friends come to stay with their two kids, one of whom is Theo’s age. As soon as our friends were through the door, the kids zoomed off upstairs to play. No intervention from me required, apart from checking every ten minutes if they were hungry or thirsty.
Now we’ve got into school friends coming round to play. Again, awesome. They go up to Theo’s room and hang out.
On the one hand, this is great! I’m finding more time to write, or tidy the house, or just do nothing.
But this weekend it hit me a bit: I’m not needed as much.
It’s only little things. For example, putting on a movie. Even a few months ago I would have been asked to sort that out. Not any more. Theo’s got the TV in his room working (I didn’t think it did), launched Netflix, searched for The Lego Batman Movie and hit play.
Earlier this week he was thirsty, so he got the milk out of the fridge and poured a glass.
And of course, I want him to have more independence. I just didn’t realise how I would feel about it when it happened — which is pretty mixed.
I’m looking at it as I would the first few miles of a marathon: I know what’s coming, but for now everything’s fine. I’m just conscious that my role as ‘dad’ is forever evolving, and I feel as if we’re heading into a new chapter.
I think that’s why I’ve tried to maintain some degree of self throughout the navigation of this minefield that is fatherhood. I need to be more than just ‘Theo’s dad’, because there will be times where Theo’s happy for me to be dad, and others where he isn’t. I don’t want these milestones to hit me harder than they should, which could easily happen.
I’m enabling the protagonist to form new friendships and develop social skills. Every now and then I’ll be elevated to sidekick status, but in the meantime I’m more than happy to play whatever role is needed. I think.