TIME TO MAN UP
Writer Richard Clune, who has just released a book on being a modern man, pays tribute to Father’s Day with a heartfelt letter to his children.
Writer Richard Clune, who has just released a book on how to be a modern man, pays tribute to Father’s Day with a heartfelt letter to his children.
What I want you to know, now and for the wash of time, is love. It is love that drew you into this world. It is love that empowers you to be and love that will enable you to grow. It is love that will forever frame our wonderful entanglement.
To speak of parenthood, of my fatherhood, is to also gift you the single greatest truism of this heightened pact. And it is this: I don’t actually know what it is I’m doing. Like every parent, I’m making this up on the fly. I’m winging it. Some things will work, others won’t. But we’re seemingly getting somewhere, together, holding a line in life that seems, for the most part, to trace an ascendant arc.
If I’m to be completely honest with you, with myself, then I must also admit I wasn’t sure if I’d make it here. To this point. To this juncture where the signposts seem more defined than they were for so long with two kids under two.
Because I didn’t enter the arena of fatherhood with a raised fist of confidence, a swagger in my step. No, my entrance was more of a stagger. A stumble, even, and a largely drunken one at that, given I spent the lead-up to your first breath, my darling Hattie, rinsing every last bit of fun from life by running with reprobates and howling to a selfish god. It’s not to suggest that I ever wished for a return to times more simple. Please don’t ever think such thing. But my initial priorities were fragmented when they should have been firm.
Parenthood is hard. No one person truly enunciates this. And it’s why, my loves, my darlings, you will sometimes hear my voice raised or glimpse an open sense of struggle tumbling down a cheek. It’s tough, this thing called fatherhood, though also know that at the centre of all I do and say and encourage and deflect is a want for you to lead an existence of engagement and experience, one brimming with imagination and possibility, one devoid of Dickensian moments of struggle.
And I feel we’re getting there, my loves – we are, right? Slowly, sure, though we’re getting somewhere, I believe.
A lifetime of nothing in a suitcase.
They’re a set of words my father, my dad – never my ‘old man’, because that’s just crass – said to instil in me a desire for life to take on meaning and be littered by incredible experience. I’ve long slung them from a shoulder, never wanting life to lead to little.
And I wish to present those same words to you now too. I hope that you can engage the sentiment, if not today then soon, because they’re words that have helped me live life, one that’s ultimately spilt beyond full. It’s meant that I’ve felt pain alongside privilege. It’s meant that I’ve sat above situations and smiled at the profound nature of what played out below.
I have, my kids, my darling loves, laughed and cried in equal measure. Just as you will too. For life will explode with wonder, and will at times leave you bruised. Of course, I will kiss every blemish and collect every tear, just as I will smile at your elation in crossing experiences new and full of incredible cheer.
Harry, my girl, my assortment of awesome. You’re my equally proudest moment, my crazy one who knows no fear. You can also be assertive to a point of pain, my little miss, my whirlwind warrior. I do sometimes worry about the teenage years ahead, about whether you’ll find false YouTube prophets or, worse, a basic older boyfriend called Nathan, who’s “into cars”.
But then I also sit and watch you from afar, wise beyond your years and a leader of your playground gang; a powerhouse female who reads people and situations like others your age can’t, or shouldn’t be able to. And I look upon you in that moment and know that all will be okay.
Hattie, Harry, H, you’re entering a world that doesn’t immediately accept the fiercest of females. But know that things are changing, and will continue to ameliorate so long as you and other girls don’t ever find defeat. It will be incredibly hard at times, at times a seemingly impossible task laced with barbs set by men and the jealousy of others. But you must maintain the fire.
Find trouble, find fortune, find frivolity, find fun. Hell, find an emo phase and facial piercings. Just don’t let anything alter who you really are, my girl, my trouper, and all will be wondrous.
Elliott, my boy, mon fils. You came earlier than envisaged, but you immediately filled our lives with incredible love; funny as you were with an overfilled fat face and chubby outstretched arms that always sought to hold another close. Or seek out more food. Today, your mind whirs at a speed and on a level that I can’t always understand, undertaking solo missions to places I cannot see. It will set you apart, your unique intelligence and vision, though never seek to bury that which you are, my boy, my remarkable little man.
Regardless of your constant quest for perfection, I encourage you to not fear mistakes, for they’re part of the contract. Without them, life can too easily become stifled – fear strangling true adventure.
You need no guidance when it comes to kindness, in lifting your sight to see those around you. I ask that you continue to hold true to this, to continue to force others to hold hands as you do in today’s playground. Yes, do that and all will be all right.
My kids, my darlings, my loves. My dynamic and vastly different duo. On this Father’s Day, know not just of my commitment or want for you to truly live, but also know of all that I have gained by being with you both.
Because of all that happens, I’ve come to understand and accept that each and every day (every hour in those early stages) is about learning. Fatherhood has taught me patience – on driving for hours at night to settle the cries of a baby struggling to sleep. Fatherhood has taught me acceptance – in understanding why it is you no longer state farewell with a kiss at the school gates. Fatherhood has taught me true love – on seeing you smile and feeling your grip whenever a hug is needed.
I thank you, my wonderful precious two, for all that we have shared. I thank you for this Father’s Day and for those that lie ahead.
Male Order: Manning Up In The Modern World by Richard Clune (New Holland, $24.99) is out now.
“I didn’t enter the arena of fatherhood with a swagger in my step. No, my entrance was more of a stagger”