Dad has never invented anything, but he is remarkable to us

Brian Halfpenny, whose various skills include settling babies.

In that lexicon of fathers, my dad is unremarkable. He never saved anyone’s life or invented anything apart from four kids (all born by the time he was 28.) He drives so slowly he stalled on the West Gate Bridge in light traffic. He can only cook steak. His dad jokes are meandering stories with obscure punchlines.

At almost 82, he’s an oddity among his generation of men who whisper dead cars to life or make viable planes from rubber bands. I’ve never seen him with a drill or even a screwdriver. He’s capsized boats (two in one holiday), and left his bathers behind while hauling himself out of a pool.

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Who cares? I got the dad whose secret sauce is he is lovely. Specifically, his superpower is babies.

The man is incredible. Disregard any grandmothers in the room and place your baby into my father’s arms. The child will gaze at him as he sings Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. They will waltz slowly until the baby is asleep for five years.

Standing up to speak at his kids’ weddings, Dad never got past a couple of words. The day I became a mother, the phone rang. A sobbing man. Call back when you have it together. He called five times with no luck.

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One lunchtime during my second pregnancy, he took me to nine restaurants until I was happy. Two weeks after that baby was born, the kids’ dad went on tour with Kiss. I decamped to my parents’ Brisbane doorstep with my unpredictable crew.

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The jaundiced newborn wouldn’t feed. When he did, the two-year-old drove a Matchbox car on his head or ran with scissors. I was losing it. Dad took me to a lactation consultant. He said the magic words: “You’re doing a good job.”

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His dad CV would say he’s a great dancer and swimmer and is beloved by dogs. His North Star is family. His major complexity is his ambidexterity: writes right, tennis off both wings, left-handed at golf, bowls right, but bats left at cricket.

His greatest gift to me is equanimity. He can be unremarkable to others. Never to his kids.

Kate Halfpenny is the founder of Bad Mother Media.

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