Report card for the Messi of dads

Report card for the Messi of dads
File photo of a father and his child.

With every last iota of humility in me, I can tell you that many people say I am a good father.

This, I try to ignore, not because their opinions don't matter, but because the bar for good fathers has been set so low for so long that it is enough for them to play with their children on weekends.

That is not good enough for me.

Others may be pleased to be an S-League super substitute scoring the occasional wonder goal.

I want to be the Lionel Messi of fathers.

Having been unambitious for most of my life, I finally found my calling in life at the age of 36, when my first child Faith was born seven years ago: I could be a so-so writer, an average journalist, a mediocre strummer of guitars and ukuleles, but I want desperately to be the World's Best Daddy to Faith and Sarah, my second daughter.

How am I doing so far? I think I am okay, although I certainly could shout a lot less.

Faith says she loves me two hugs more than she does mummy, possibly because I spoil her with three extravagant treats more than my wife.

As for Sarah, well, just the other morning before I left for work, she not only said goodbye to me, she also said, unprompted: "You're my second favourite."

Second to mummy? I'll take that!

While kids are often disarmingly honest, they can also be a little too undiscerning and a little too forgiving.

For the brutal truth, there is only one person I can turn to: The Wife.

Rather than make New Year resolutions, I asked her for my Daddy Report Book, so I know what areas I can work on this year.

Sure, we squabble every now and again over our different child-raising preferences and sometimes contrasting approaches to discipline.

This is not the same, though, as an assessment made in the cold light of day. And, truth be told, I feared to fail in my wife's eyes.

Here is her report, unexpurgated:

Adaptability: 5 marks out of 10.

Provision of material comforts (books and, especially, games and toys, etc): 8

Tolerance of mess: 1 ("I wanted to give 0, but at least you don't scream at the children for crumbs on the floor.")

Discipline: 4 ("You try to be a mediator between Faith and Sarah and could have received a pass grade if you didn't succumb to Faith's whining countless times. Be more consistent in meting out punishment and giving treats too.")

Safety with children: 9 ("My mum trusts you more than she trusts me when either of us take the children out on our own. She also asks me, 'Is Andy going with you?'")

Playtime: 8 ("Two marks deducted because you don't stretch Faith and Sarah enough, creatively.")

"Your strengths: You are meticulous and you take the time to attend to the children's needs. Moreover, you are emotional and more humane than authoritarian. Above all, you care about the wellbeing of the kids in areas such as health.

"Weaknesses, or areas for improvement: Allow the kids to lose a little, take risks, live a little more. It's okay if they are less than pristine, physically. Let them rough it out, get a few cuts, they will not crumble. They are also more independent than you think.

"Don't impose your ideals and prejudices on them. For example, let them love the Chinese language, please.

"Hopefully, the children will get to see your gracious side more (your mouth, OMG!) - they model themselves after you.

"There is no need to try so hard at being a good dad. Give yourself space to breathe. It is okay to fail."

I'm still standing, albeit ego slightly bruised... Wait a second, did she just say I failed, but that it's okay? That I'm no Messi because that Argentinian footballing genius always manages to find space on the field?

My mouth? What about it? I let slip "s***" rather more often than I would like, but at least I've been trying to change "cr**" into "crikey" mid-breath.

Oh I see, maybe she means my sarcastic, cynical putdowns of people and things I disapprove of.

Prejudiced against Chinese language?

But I love watching Chinese movies starring beautiful Chinese actresses such as Gong Li and Zhou Xun.

Fine, I admit to harbouring an unsubstantiated theory that the way Chinese characters are learnt (which is solely by rote, since the written form is pictographic) contributes to an inflexible way of thinking.

Yes, unfortunately, I do have the habit of surrendering to Faith's whining and tears.

In my defence, I'm a victim of emotional blackmail - I turn into a quivering mess of unrequited love when Faith angrily blurts, "I hate you, daddy."

God help me when she turns into a teen.

While my wife is mostly unerring in her report, she is absolutely spot-on when she says I need to let the kids be more independent.

For starters, this year, I shall try not to brush their teeth in bed because I think they are tired.

I shall also get them to walk more, though my heart aches to see them exhausted. Wait, there's one more line to my wife's report when I turn the page:

Love for children: 12 upon 10.

Take that, Messi.


This article was first published on January 11, 2015.
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