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29 August 2021
Anthony, Vanessa and their five children. Photos Stefanie Plum
Making the most of the time you have to be a dad
Words Anthony Hunt
At 9pm the other night, as I lay on the bed with my still rather energetic three-year-old boy, Rupert, I thought to myself, “It’s been a long day.” As a father of five children ranging from 18 years to three months, the days are long.
I am naturally an early riser, which means I think 6am is a sleep-in. This was a fantastic attribute when I was childless. I could get up early, have some time to centre myself for the day, and then have breakfast ready for me and my wife.
My eldest boy, seven-year-old Tobias, has inherited my early-riser trait. So now, rising early doesn’t mean centring myself for the day. Rather, it means that my day begins with the demands of a typical Year Two student, “Dad, I’m hungry”, “Dad, can I watch Beyblade on TV?”, “Dad, do you know where my shoes are?” Dad, Dad, Dad. The days are long.
Anthony with his newborn son, Leonard.
My ‘dad’ moments last from about 5am to 9pm, excluding the efforts of our newest addition, Leonard, who is no respecter of the concept that night is for sleep.
As a father, I also get to have special moments with my kids. My five-year-old daughter, Esther, was a real ‘daddy’s girl’ until recently. While most parents might not admit it, we do have favourite children, depending on the season of life, and Esther has always had a soft spot in my heart. This might be because my wife, Vanessa, had a stroke soon after Esther was born. While Vanessa is mostly recovered now, it meant that I was probably the primary carer of Esther in those early months of life, and so we have a bit of a special bond.
While I might be terrible at plaiting hair on Barbie dolls, knowing the correct Beyblade combo or remembering the name of a particular My Little Pony, I’m readily available to hear what is happening in my kids’ worlds. This is because, while the days are long, the years are short.
It only feels like yesterday that my seven-year-old was born, and now he is in his second year at school. He is learning to navigate his way through school life without me being a readily available physical presence. As a dad, you hope you’ve instilled enough self-confidence in your children so they can transition into the big wide world and feel they are safe in who and where they are.
Thanks to her wonderful early-childhood educators, my five-year-old daughter has become fascinated with understanding the history of First Nations Australians. She will often tell us how we, as non-Indigenous Australians, need to do better at loving and caring with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. As a father, I hope that my kids see the things that I value being lived out in my life enough to take it on board for themselves. As a Christian, I hope they see enough of Christ in my life to want to follow in his way.
My three-year-old boy has some challenges, but he is always filled with joy. He might not always have the words to communicate what he wants or how he is feeling at any given moment, but his joy is infectious. His laugh makes you want to know what is so funny in his world that he feels the need to share it loudly with anyone and everyone. As a father, all you want for your children is for them to be happy and healthy. You want them to be able to enjoy life in the good times and have big enough joy reserves to get through the bad.
Anthony and Vanessa welcome their latest addition.
My newborn boy is completely dependent on my wife and myself for his every need. While as a father, you hope and pray that your children will grow to a point where they won’t need you so much, there is a place in your heart that will forever see them as your baby child that you would do anything to protect and provide for.
Finally, we have our 18-year-old daughter, our ‘baby adult’ as we jokingly call her. She is not our biological child but came into our family by choice. It wasn’t an easy choice, and it’s a choice you must make every day. Her backstory is hers to tell, but as someone who chooses to be a father to her, as much as her young adult life can drive me bonkers, I am proud of the young woman she is becoming.
Fatherhood isn’t about changing the whole world, but it is about changing the world for those in your care, enough that they can thrive and become all that God intended them to be, whether they are yours biologically or not.
The days are long, but the years are short. Make the most of the time you have to be a father to your children. Know that some days you’ll be Mike Brady and others you’ll be Homer Simpson, but ultimately know that you can make a difference in your child’s life if you embrace the long days that make up those short years.
Lieutenant Anthony Hunt is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Queensland.