Daniel Lewis is dad to Edie, 5, Avie, 3, Bonnie 22 months, a freelance writer and the author of X Years, 9 Months: A Ragged Memoir of Relationships, Demons and New Beginnings.
Today a friend asked, what does fatherhood mean to me?
It’s a timely question.
Timely because I've let myself drown in the drudgery of routine and expectation that falls on the modern dad.
Timely because I know I don't appreciate often enough how blessed I am to have three beautiful, healthy girls.
Daniel, with L-R - Avie, Bonnie and Edie.
It's only through taking the time to allow the question's deeper meaning to seep into me, that I realise Tash and I have achieved quite a bit in the almost-six years since our first-born, the bruised and beautiful Edith Alba, entered the world.
With two sister siblings entering the fray before Edie blew the candles out on her fourth birthday cake, the ensuing years have been a blur of bubble bath suds, soiled nappies, tantrums, park outings and Play-Doh – and, just quietly, solo renditions of the 'Bing Bong Song' from Peppa Pig.
But playing my part in shaping three sweet and vivacious little girls is an achievement I don’t give myself (or Tash) nearly enough credit for.
In short, fatherhood means everything to me. Strip away the outer layers – work, and the nagging preoccupation with bringing in enough money to keep a roof over their heads and their tummies full – and it’s all I’ve got. I reflect on my lot before their mother safely delivered our trio of blue-eyed gems and there was an emptiness that simply doesn’t compete with a choir of shrill voices, pit-pattering feet, sparkling laughter and perennially being one broken eggshell from chaos.
Daniel and Edie.
Edie was my L-plate entry. She’s my gap-toothed angel; a little bit shy and yet, confident and creative. At times, she looks the spit of her grandmother – my mother – as a girl. I love walking her home from school, holding her hand and allowing her full canvass to recap what she feels is worth telling about her day. The world’s her oyster.
Avie is the tigress; a pint-sized version of her mother. She’s been the worst sleeper; the root of many of the wars inside our house. But she also possesses an uncanny knack of turning on butter-wouldn’t-melt sweetness that instantly cleans the slate. Like Tash, she’s very outgoing – and unfiltered. If she wants to make your acquaintance, then that’s what she’ll do. I’ve lost count of the times she’s nonchalantly waltzed up to people at the park and declared: “Hi, my name is Avie!”
Daniel and Avie.
Bonnie was the shock-of-all-shocks, the beautiful mistake. She has a very sweet nature that's balanced with mischievous idiosyncrasies. Her 22 months have been swept up in craziness, but she's happy-go-lucky – although clinging to her mother remains her fondest pastime. I've loved watching her evolve from baby to toddler; always trailing her big sisters and adopting their love of princesses, Pippi and the iPad.
Daniel and Bonnie.
Recently I renewed my drivers licence. When it arrived in the mail, I procured my old card from 10 years ago and offered both cards to Edie for comparison. “You look the same,” she said. I considered the two profile pictures. She was right: I’d held up OK in 10 years. Crows’ feet and grey hairs abound, yes, but I’m in better shape at 38 than 28 – a testament to my now four-year-old running habit.
I mightn’t have altered much but as for everything else, there’s a Grand Canyon-sized difference. In 2005 I binge-ate, binge-drunk, binge-smoked. I was barely treading water in a near-on empty lake. Three years later fatherhood remained something almost unfathomable as explained in this extract from my memoir X Years, Nine Months.
But when God sent Edie my way in 2009, and then Avie and Bonnie in 2012 and 2013, He also proffered an opportunity: to be a better, richer – and not in the monetary sense – man.
While I haven’t completely grasped this offering with both hands, I am far richer – and fuller – for my girls. Best of all, I’m loved unconditionally. There’s no better feeling.
It's Edie and I laughing hysterically at something silly on the TV.
It’s Avie saying, as if from the blue, "I love you, Dad".
It’s Bonnie's infectious smile when I walk in the door from work.
It's these little things – and many more – that I love about being a dad.
And this Sunday, flanked by my girls for Father’s Day, I’ll try, for one day at least, to not let these thoughts slip.
You can purchase Daniel's eBook here.