When I became a dad to a daughter I had a friend who said that this would be the greatest love story of my life. At the time I shrugged it off as I am also a father to two sons. However, around the age of two my daughter started spending more and more time choosing to play with me over her mother (which was upsetting to my wife) and I began to understand what my friend had meant.
I have been writing to my daughter in a diary (with a pen) and will present this to her when she has children of her own. I won't be shy about it, we have had some great moments together and our fair share of sad ones. My work takes me abroad, which before I became a parent was one of the biggest perks. Sometimes, I am away for two months at a time and have missed out on big days for the kids. As wonderful as modern technology is, sometimes Skype calls just make things tougher. Recently, my wife and I have been thinking that we may have to reorganise ourselves to make family life a little more "normal". Until we do, I will continue to come and go, being both a live-in-the-flesh father as well as a virtual one.
Here are five ways in which my four-year-old daughter helps me live in the present moment and how we get lost in magical moments, whether they be in the same time zone or over a digital connection.
1) My daughter is a natural when it comes to 'make believe'. My sons played non-stop at her age, but were never into losing themselves and taking on a role to become someone else. She easily becomes; 'Father Christmas', 'a nursing mother', 'a baby speaking her first words' or 'a playful kitten'. She is so dedicated in playing her subject that I am completely engaged and forget about everything else. In today's climate, that is a delight.
2) She has a knack for picking up a song quickly, whether it be a melody or beating out a bassline. This really gets me involved as my first love is music and in my younger days I spent as much time as I could playing, writing and recording music. We sing together a lot. When I am away for weeks at a time, across the seas and time zones we sing together to remain connected. The Beach Boys are a favourite. It's at those times when I really appreciate the value of the digital age.
3) She has a confidence that I never had. She approaches people, mainly adults, and right away we have the beginnings of a new friendship. Many of the new friends we have made in the past six months are down to her pulling me by the finger and getting involved with the people around us. We are aware of our surroundings and are always scanning the vicinity for potential friends. She has a radar that has brought some wonderful people into our lives.
4) She will not walk with me. She will walk with my wife, as my wife is a little stricter in not giving in to her demands of being carried, but I do give in. She is a skinny being, but my back still feels the ache when I'm walking around with her for longer than I should. However, having her head beside mine, I enjoy hearing her chat away her every thought and observation. Plus, that extra tight squeeze she gives me when something startles her is worth a little discomfort.
5) Our two sons have become more independent, as they should, but they are also a reminder to seize the joy in every day of your little one's childhood, because as they say, it does go by so fast. When I return home tired from work or a long-haul flight, the little girl spinning about to greet me needs me to be as bright and attentive as she is towards me. And you know what, it's not difficult to do, because at the end of a long day she reminds me of what is most important in life, unconditional love!