Fathers… It is fifteen years since my father passed away, just six weeks after our first son was born. My husband John’s father passed way before he was born so sadly our children have never known their grandfathers.

Each Father’s Day I fondly remember what a great dad and a great man my own father was. Recently a young dad was taking his son for a ride on his prize Harley Davidson.There was an accident and the father was killed and the son aged 12 survived. What struck me most were the heartfelt comments from all his children describing how wonderful their dad was. My husband was rather taken by these comments and remarked that he would feel enormous pride if that was how his kids would remember him.

Well I say to you John on the eve of this years Father’s Day.. that as far as Father’s goes.. you are one of the best.

This week an article was published in the NZ Herald, it highlighted a speech given by Sir Brian Lohore at a breakfast about parenting. Simply put Sir Brian harked back to the old days and suggested that as a society we have become too PC. His children grew up on a farm riding motorbikes,swimming in rivers and undoubtedly taking risks most of which would probably would be outlawed today by OSH. He also stated that he smacked his and other children and it never did them any harm. I don’t for a minute envisage that Sir Brian thought his comments would make front page news but it did raise a few questions and a few eyebrows.

In the fifteen years we have been parenting John has never smacked our boys..I have to admit that I have probably made up for it. He amazes me with his level of patience and control, although I have seen him drag them by their ears so I suppose that means he is not perfect. The difference between John and I is his ability to not take anything personally. I remember the first time one told me they hated me. I think my heart felt as if it was going to break because I simply believed them. John is a firm believer in being a parent first and a friend second. And now years later I am starting to see the enormous respect our boys have for their father and the importance he has in their lives.

As Celia Lashlie says in her book “Mothers must get off the Bridge to adolescence.”What does that really mean..well as our boys approach those years faster than that Jamaican who won the Olympic 100 meters it is starting to dawn on me what she means. As women we are so guilty of wanting to know so much about our son’s lives by questioning them about their day, their friends, their school so much so they generally shut up completely.

Generally males are not so verbal in their communication although I must say we have one who is so verbal it drives us insane and I often wonder if his domination of every conversation simply gives the others less opportunity to open up. I’ve realised that silence doesn’t mean there is anything wrong and often when you least expect it they will open up. I find it interesting that our sons are much more interested in stories of their father’s childhood even if we have heard them all before.They love the boy’s own adventure stuff and it is often through the retelling of these stories that I sense a real fondness and respect for their dad.

Let’s face it as boys get older we really are there to cook clean and run them places – it’s not cool for mothers to go on secondary school trips…as much as I would like to, and when we think we are really cool and funny the boys quickly remind me I am not.

In our busy lives sometimes the stresses and strains become too much and we lose our sense of humour .Not long ago John bought everyone a spud gun and a hilarious night was spent shooting potatoes all around the house followed by sleeping bag races down the stairs. Simple,messy but fun.!

Sometimes I am envious of the obvious attention and attraction John receives. He travels a lot and when the boys were little they didn’t seem to notice, now they want to know how long he will be away, what can he do with them when he is back. The welcome he receives on his return is as great as any ticker tape parade… I just get “what’s for dinner?”.

Life is not always perfect and as a couple we have had our ups and downs.. but sometimes you have to count your blessings for what you have and not what you don’t.

I am blessed to have a husband who is a great dad..always prepared to do whatever it takes to be with them even if it means little time for himself. The most important aspect is that he nevers sees it as a chore or a responsibility but as a pleasure…so to all the Dads out there celebrate this Father’s Day.

Whilst there are many imperfections in today’s society I think that good fathers know how to raise good men if only we as women would give them the chance. All our sons need good male role models that they can aspire to be like.. and Dads are a pretty good start.


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Dame Susan Devoy is New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, and a World Open champion squash player. She's the former CEO of Sport Bay of Plenty and super-mum to four boys.

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