I’m not the most outwardly emotional of fathers, but the only word I can think of which adequately describes my relationship with my eight-month old daughter Kara is: besotted. Having had two boys already, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover how differently this new father/child relationship has developed. In short, Kara is a real daddy’s girl – and I’m looking forward to becoming a bit of a girlie’s dad.
It hasn’t always been like that. The turning point came when we went away for half-term week in October, shortly before Kara turned six months. In truth, my interactions with her up to then had been relatively limited. When you have a busy job, two attention-seeking sons you have to run interference for and a breast-feeding daughter who spends most of her time feeding or sleeping, it’s hard to do much else as a father.
But that week – the first extended time I had been able to spend with Kara since she was a few weeks old – I was able to spend more valuable face-time with my daughter at a time when her ability to interact with others was coming along in leaps and bounds. It made a huge difference – both actually and in my head – and by the end of the week her relative indifference towards me had turned into a beaming smile.
We haven’t looked back since. It’s a completely new experience for me, like a hole has been filled which I didn’t even realise was there. Isaac and Toby were both total mummy’s boys until past their second birthdays, but there’s no mistaking her reaction whenever I walk into the room or pick her up for a play. It’s usually some combination of a delighted cackle, a goofy grin, a wave and her sitting up with arms outstretched demanding a cuddle. (And if I don’t pick her up, she looks utterly crestfallen and I’m treated to the dreaded bottom-lip wobble.) It’s all immensely gratifying, and with hindsight I feel a much bigger part of her life now than I did with either of our boys at this stage, who were more likely to crawl away from me as quickly as possible howling for their mother.
It’s not that I didn’t feel a part of the boys’ lives back then, or that I cared for them any less. More that I felt a bit more on the outside looking in, such was the extent to which they naturally gravitated towards their mother – I was more of an afterthought in their minds. As both boys ticked off various milestones in their first two years – crawling, standing, first word, first step, discovering how to unlock an iPhone and use it to hack into the MoD’s systems à la War Games – I guess I felt more like a spectator than an active participant.
With Kara, I feel much more involved. Whereas the boys only had eyes for their mother, she is (if anything) more keen to please and get a smile out of me than she is with Heather. We’re both delighted about that – Heather has her hands full enough as it is – and hopefully this is just the start of a father/daughter bond which will never fade. (At least not until I turf her first boyfriend out for not being good enough for my little princess, that is, and then she’ll hate me forever.)
It’s just a small thing, really. Only it isn’t to me.
If I’m being honest, when Kara was born I wasn’t sure exactly how I would respond to having a daughter. I know now. I couldn’t be happier with my little daddy’s girl.