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.

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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”

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