Kara was nearly the child we never had.
Wind back the clock to 2011. Isaac was three; Toby just past his first birthday. The conversation turned from “We’re never doing that again” to “Should we try for a third?”
Heather asked the question first. In truth, I had never even considered having more than two children. We had had to wait a long time before Isaac came along. Then when Toby arrived, we had a family with two boys – the same situation I had grown up in.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want a third child. The thought had just never occurred to me.
Equally, I wasn’t desperate for a third child either. But Heather was keener. Having grown up as an only child and spent most of her formative years living alone with her mother, 9,000 miles away from her father, her desire to have more rather than fewer children in the house was understandable.
I didn’t disagree with her desire to have one more child. But I didn’t wholeheartedly agree either.
So we left it in the lap of the gods. We set ourselves a time limit. If it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, we’d still be happy with two.
It happened. It was just meant to be.
Once we knew we were having another baby, our thoughts turned to whether it would be a boy or a girl. We said we didn’t mind; either way we’d be happy.
I can’t vouch for Heather – but I was lying.
I wanted a girl. Of course, I would still have been delighted with a third son. But, mothers aside, neither of us had grown up with another female in the household. Having a girl would mean having a little princess to steal her daddy’s heart. Heather would have a daughter to do, well, whatever it is that girls do when they hang out together.
Most of all, we knew that having a girl after two boys would just be different to what we had experienced to date.
How right we were. And yet I don’t think either of us realised quite how different Kara would be.
We should have known from the manner of her entrance into the world that our daughter would soon develop a flair for the dramatic. 18 days late, she announced her impending arrival by breaking waters during a hospital check-up. I’m fashionably late; here I come!
Where our boys have a tendency towards introspection, Kara lives every minute with her heart on her sleeve, as if it is perpetually the cliffhanger ending of a serial drama. Don’t you dare leave – just you wait and see what I’m going to do next!
Where Isaac is 80% Heather and 20% me and Toby is pretty much 100% me, Kara has little flashes of both of us but is about 70% a secret formula that neither of us recognises. She’s confident and loud, racing towards rather than away from the spotlight. She is cunning, ruthless and instinctively knows how to bend people to her bidding. Her personality and sheer force of will fills any room she walks into. She is everything her shy, quiet, spotlight-avoiding father is not (but wishes he was).
Kara brings out sides of me that no one else does – some of which I didn’t even know existed. She is the only person I have ever danced with in public. (Heather and I didn’t even dance at our wedding.) While all our children love music, it’s Kara who will demand we do duets to Queen songs or numbers from West Side Story. She crawls into our bed in the middle of the night knowing I will snuggle her. She’s a gymnast and a rock-star; a tomboy and a girly-girl; scarily intense and hilariously silly.
If Kara had never been born, these – and many, many more – are the things I would have missed out on.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like without any of my kids. And it’s not that I favour one over the others. But in so many ways our smallest child is the biggest presence in our house. She would leave behind a hole far bigger than the physical space she occupies.
If the above reads like an unabashed love letter from a father to his daughter, well, that’s because it is. I’m not blind to Kara’s imperfections. It’s just that I don’t care about them. To me, she’s perfectly imperfect.
My life as a father would have been far from empty if there was no Kara. I would just never have known what I was missing – and my life is so much more full with her in it. I’m a very lucky man. Our daughter completes our family – but she also completes me.