Parenting: Cambridge’s coast-walking Chris Howard reflects on being a dad

As Father’s Day approaches Cambridge’s coast-walking adventurer Chris Howard reflects on what is means to be a dad

June is here – and with it the hope of summer’s long hot days and drawn-out evenings, plus of course the special day that we celebrate dads everywhere! With that can come a plethora of weirdness, feelings and emotions. I try to imagine it from the cubs’ perspective; what thoughts must be going through their minds to treat me so amazingly, considerately and lovingly on that one momentous day?

Chris Howard talks Father's Day
Chris Howard talks Father's Day

I don’t know why, but I’m always a little uncomfortable with self-celebration and the idea that there’s a day dedicated entirely to me. I even find my birthday hard, but Father’s Day is something special for me and for them. In the lead up to the big day there’s always whispers and chitter chatter I’m ‘not allowed to hear’ as they scheme and plot like the little loving imps they are. There’s the card plans and the presents and then the cuddles and the surprise tea towel attack from all three things as I enter the kitchen unsuspectingly.

Usually it starts with Thing Two coming into my bedroom, shouting ‘Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!’ before hauling herself up and into bed. She is closely followed by Thing One with cards, coffee and presents (normally a pack of Oreos) saying the same, and stating (of said Oreos): ‘We know you like to share them, Daddy!’. Then, without warning, Youngest Thing, who has been stealthily crawling around the base of the bed, shouts ‘Surprise!’ as she lands head first on my chest, beaming her toothless smile.

How is it that they manage to tug so hard on my heartstrings that I cannot bring myself to bin the cards and drawings, not just after a few days, weeks or even months? In fact, I’ll keep every single one in my bedside drawer until the end of time itself. I have what can only be described as a 10-year wad of indecipherable etchings and sketchings that mean absolutely nothing to anyone but me.

As the sun peers through the curtain folds onto our faces, we talk about the plan for the day between Youngest Thing’s horrendously manly farts and giggles from all of us. They want to make a special breakfast of pancakes (normally my job) with golden syrup and raspberries (my absolute favourite) followed by a game of Bananagrams and/or Doble. They plan to take me to the pub for lunch and play in the garden there. ‘You enjoy a nice cold ‘Heinikini’ beer, Daddy,’ they say in unison, as I think, then enquire ‘. . . and who might be paying for this special lunch, cubs?’

My wife - a star as usual - has helped them with the hatching of the Father’s Day plan and the military operation has already begun before I’ve even descended the stairs to be met with yet more Happy Father’s Day wishes. This time the wishes are in song form as Thing Two strums the ukulele as Thing One dances and sings in a musical theatre manner, Youngest Thing conducting them and singing ‘Daddy, Daddy Cool. . . Daddy, Daddy Cool!’

It’s quite impressive to see the entertainment they devise and whilst smiling with utter daddy love glee, I can’t help but think about being a dad and what it means. ‘Am I good enough?’ is the overriding thought that’s hung around in my head since before they were born. After all, being a dad is overwhelming too, and often we’re not asked if we’re okay by anyone - and why should we be, it’s all about the mummy. . . except, it’s not, is it?

Whatever it’s about, however you feel about yourself, let the love of your children wash over you and drench you like a newborn’s dribble. I promise you they love Father’s Day - and you - more than anything else today. What’s that I hear you say? ‘I’m crazy like a fool . . .Daddy, Daddy Cool!

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