As you all know, this Sunday is Father’s Day. Dads around the globe will be expecting lies in and to wake up to various presents, from ‘best dad ever’ socks, personalised mugs or pint glasses, or handkerchiefs to join the others unused in the sock draw…. In reality it’s another commercial day and for that reason I don’t expect and wouldn’t want any big fancy presents. I’d be happy with a couple of cards made at school or nursery and some big hugs from the kids. We’ll see what it brings on that front – but I do know a nice pub lunch awaits at least!
Now we’re a family of five, we see our family as complete and we have no plans for any more children. I know how lucky we are to be in this situation and I thank my blessings every day for that. Given that’s the case and given I’ve been writing this blog, what I thought I’d do this Father’s Day is have a think about being a Dad, what it means to me and what I want to impart to my kids about life – something for them to carry through with them as they get older. For me, I don’t want any special thanks from my kids for being their Daddy. It’s my absolutely pleasure and THE best job in the world. I love it and it brings me joy every day, leaves me smiling and laughing more than I could have thought and swells my heart with pride on a daily basis. If you look at them you’ll see why..
So ahead of this Father’s Day, I thought I’d write my children a little letter. A sort of love letter I guess – something that they can always refer to in the future, whenever they need to. A letter about life: about the things I think are important and perhaps wish I’d known a little more about when I was younger. Here goes …
Dear Tessa, Tilly and Toby
A famous pop singer once sang that “Life is a rollercoaster”. Whilst that singer was a bit of a cheesy Irish fella, there is some truth in ‘that there lyric’. As you weave your way through life, you’ll realise there are lots of highs and sometimes lows. Times of pure happiness and laughter that will lead to memories that will make you smile and make your heart sing. Times you are proud of what you and others have achieved. There will also be times of sadness – when you might lose someone you love, or if you don’t quite achieve something you set out to in the way you wanted to. All these emotions on the up and down rollercoaster of life is what makes it what it is. And it’s great. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of that though and re-find your happy place. My happy place is with you all, and always will be.
As you grow older and pick up different life experiences there are certain things I want you to remember if you can. Things that I think will help you on your way and stand you in good stead to cope with the highs and lows of that up and down rollercoaster you’re all now on. If you can remember them and keep yourself on that middle track, the rollercoaster might just become a little less bumpy and the drops a little less steep. When there’s only minor bumps it will just give you butterflies in your tummy, whether through excitement, nerves or a little bit of anguish, but it’ll be a lot of fun along the way. So here’s what I want you to think about and try to remember:
1.Participate and Persevere – Don’t be afraid to try things. Say ‘yes’ a lot more than you say ‘no’. If you don’t take part and try things you’ll never find out if you like something or not (especially food – when you read this, please try more food, in fact do it now – it will make life a lot easier for Mummy and Daddy!). Often the first step is the hardest and if you take the plunge and get involved in something and participate, it just might be something that becomes a big part of your life forever more. Don’t be scared – if you try it and don’t like it, at least you’ll know, and you wont need to do it again, but generally the positives of taking part will far outweigh any negatives. And if anything goes drastically wrong, come and find me for a hug and a giggle and we’ll soon put things right again.
You’ll also find in life that there will be times when things seem tough or that you might think a problem or challenge is insurmountable. Don’t give up. Fight on. Persevere. Step back and think about how you’re approaching the problem and go again. You will be surprised at how much progress you can make by keeping going, even in the face of great adversity. In my life there have been times when perseverance and hard work have rewarded me. An example is winning the Lancashire Cup with Burnage at Under 16s. We tried the previous 4 years to win it, but missed out each time, but we stuck at it and then won it two years in a row. Another was passing my driving test 3rd time (after sacking my instructor and doing it in my own car!). Just two examples, but ones that show persevering can reap great rewards. Don’t give in, but rather tell yourself over and over that you can do it. More often than not, if you really want something and work hard, you’ll get there in the end.
2. Be Resilient – this goes hand in hand with perseverance. The ability to roll with the punches and dust yourself down if something has been difficult or not gone your way. I can already see each of you have resilience in you in spades and you’ll be amazed at how strong you can be when you need to be, even in the most trying of circumstances. Take a breath, draw support from wherever you need to and get back up and keep going. You are all strong and there will always be light at the end of the tunnel, however long and dark it might first seem. On that note, always be there for each other too. You’re very lucky to have each other and you should always remember that.
3. Be Energetic and Enthusiastic – whatever you do, try and do it to the best of your ability. Throw yourself into it with boundless energy. If you do that you will be half way there before you even get started. Even on tasks or jobs you are uninspired by or you know you don’t like. Approach them with energy and enthusiasm and you will get through them much more quickly and a lot of the time they won’t seem half as bad as you first feared. Whether it be tidying up, homework, visiting people or going somewhere you don’t want to, or part of a job in later life – if you flip your attitude around and try to be positive, the experience is likely to end up being positive too. People will also feed off that energy and enthusiasm and you’ll find opportunities arise for you as a result. There’s no points in life for being a grumpy pants (unless you’re in a grumpy pants competition, but I think that is one thing you can say ‘no’ to)!
4.Smile. As often as possible. Laugh long and loud and clear. Every day. “Turn that frown upside down”. All the old cliches are true – “laughter is the best medicine”, “smile and the world will smile with you”, and “a day without laughter is a day wasted”. My best times with you all are those when we smile and when we laugh. Whether that’s just messing around at home, playing games, being out in the garden, on a lovely family holiday or day out somewhere making memories. Wherever we are, it doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t matter to you. If you’re smiling and laughing, life is good. Even in times of great sadness, finding a smile and something to laugh about will pull you through. It’s always ok to smile and laugh, don’t forget that. A smile is also a key that will open many doors for you. Give your smiles freely and as often as possible and you’ll feel much better for it. You’ll also find that people will smile back and will want to spend time with you. One smile can have a big impact, even if you don’t know about it, so keep those smiles coming 🙂
5.Exercise – as often as you can. I cannot tell you how much better I feel when I am able to exercise regularly … or how grumpy I get if I don’t! Already you all exercise a lot on a daily basis: whether at home or in the garden, doing gymnastics, swimming, rugby, playing on the trampoline, playing with friends, and I see the benefits you get from it. Not only will exercise keep you healthy but you’ll feel much better for it and have more energy. With any sport, enjoy it and enjoy making friends through sport. Also embrace the competition, push yourselves as much as you can. Strive to be the best you can be, but don’t lose sight that the most important thing is to enjoy it too. My godfather told me to keep playing rugby until I didn’t enjoy it anymore – and that’s the right approach to have. Team sports are wonderful ways to make life long friends and will teach you numerous life skills – responsibility, time management, discipline, respect. All transferable to all manner of things in later life. But exercise is good and be sure not to let it (and it’s importance to your physical and mental well-being) slip too far down your list of priorities as it will always drive you forwards.
6. Be Nice – I am a great believer in that if you do nice things to others, nice things will happen to you. Lead your life trying to be nice to people. Be kind. You should always try and do something kind and nice each day (feel free to be especially nice and kind to Daddy on Father’ day). Even if you’re feeling down or sad about something, or if you’re angry (and quite often you will be fully justified in having such emotions), try to remember there are always people worse off than you out there. This way of thinking is how I’ve tried to live my life and it’s always stood me in good stead. I try to remember all the good things in my life and that I am lucky to be in the position I am, even when bad things happen to me. Try to be the person who will help someone if they’re feeling sad, or will bring someone who is out on their own into a group, or stop people being mean to someone. One day you could be the person on the outside and if you are, you’ll always remember the nice and kind person that reached out to you. Be that person. Everyone should be nice to each other. If they were, the world would be a much better place and a place where everyone would prefer living. And if your mindset is to be nice and kind and to help people, others will see that in you and it will lead to more opportunity than you could ever imagine. As Roald Dahl wrote in one of my favourite books, The Twits:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.“
And this is why it’s always important to be nice (and to smile lots!).
7. Try hard – this follows on from some of the other points I’ve already raised. Whatever you do, try your hardest at it. If you do that, and can look yourself in the mirror and know you’ve done your best, no one can ask anymore of you. If you try hard at everything, you’ll be proud of yourself and your Mummy and I will always be proud of you. You’ll also surprise yourselves as to what you can achieve and how far you can go by trying your hardest. Generally in life, you will get back what you put in. So, if you work hard at things and try your best, you’ll see the rewards that follow. People generally don’t get very fair in life by being lazy and not trying their best. And if they do, they’re probably not very happy anyway! Work hard, play hard and you’ll have an amazing time doing whatever it is you choose to do!
So there’s a few things to think about as you navigate your way through life. You’ll see if you look back at the list above, that the first letters of each of the key words spells another word out too …
P – participate and persevere
E – energetic and enthusiastic
S – smile
E – exercise
N – nice
T – try hard
PRESENT. And what I also want you to remember is that, whilst you do need to plan for the future and whilst it’s great to look back in the past, don’t let the present pass you by. Live in the moment and apply all the above as best you can and you’ll all go far. Dare to dream and keep chasing those dreams and you will all achieve so much and, as far as I can, I hope to be there watching along the way.
I want you also to know that, the way I hope to help you navigate your life’s path as your Daddy, is for me to be present for you all as much as possible. Present to support you when you’re nervous or scared. Present to hug you when you need me to, and to tell you I love you and you’re doing ok. Present to laugh with you and to play. Present for bath time, to read bedtime stories, to pick you up when you’ve had a bump, to make you your favourite meals, to watch films together, to play spotting in the car, to sing silly nursery rhymes (and change the words) … just present. I will always do my best to spend as much time with you all as possible, because I love you and always will. And if for any reason I can’t always be present in person, I hope to be present by phone or on a message, or at the very worst, if I’m not present to see or speak to, I will always, always be present in your hearts, cheering you on, smiling, and beaming with pride.
Love from Daddy xx
So that’s that … something a little different, but something I hope the kids will read when they get older, and refer back to whenever they need to.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. And thanks as ever to all you lovely Mums who keep our worlds ticking over!
Next blog up – a look back on my shared parental leave now that I’ve been back in work a month or so.
Cheers for reading, Jonny.
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