Today was the birthday of my youngest daughter. She turned the Big Five. Yes 5. So I took the day off. To spend with the girls. But let me tell you a bit about me as a dad before I tell you about today.

My permanently suffering wife always tells people that we had kids so I can have friends to play with. Someone at my level. Someone to grow up with. And then she rolls her eyes and laughs. My friends just nod their heads knowingly.

I am a joker. I know. I am just not the “tough dad”. I can’t discipline them at all. I wish I could (not really), but I just can’t. My oldest daughter (11) even jokes about it. She’ll say something like “Yeah, and what are you going to do about it?” But not in a nasty way. In a joking fun way with lots of laughter. They listen to me. Sometimes. They know that dad is fun and a joker. And we’ll have fun as long as we are nice to each other and listen to each other. Respect and love each other. Continue to be a family.

I even joke about being becoming an “all tough new dad” and frown – and flip up one eyebrow. And then we burst out laughing. Cue my oldest daughter with a snap of her finger, “Like that’s ever going to happen”. Being strict just doesn’t flow in my blood. I always joke with them. And we always tell jokes – even the youngest one. We go to the park. I read for them at night. We dance to silly songs. Dress up. Pull faces. Wrestle and flip them over. Wise crack – always. Fart and burp – and then say “Good one” before mom tells us to say “Excuse me please.” Tickle. Run riot. Eat funny in restaurants. Dive into the pool fully clothed. Just havoc whatever we do and wherever we go – one rule: HAVE FUN. Wave at people we don’t know. Giggle at everything. Love and hugs 24/7. And lots of laughter. In general, just drive my poor wife crazy. All she can do is shake her head and laugh. She married a crazy one. But I think she likes it. I bloody well hope so. I am NEVER going to let her go.

But I also work. I get up at 6 and leave before they are awake. Sometimes my youngest will be awake and give me a hug and a kiss and say, “I love you dad”. But they are generally asleep when I leave. And I get back at around 7:30 – just in time for us to sit together and eat. And then I bath my youngest one and read her a story. And they are off to sleep. “I love you my angel” – my last words to them in the evening and the first in the morning.

We still have fun, but we have less time. And I don’t see everything they do. I miss the dance classes. And the summer camps. And the trips to the shops. And the hanging out at the house. And the school trips. And the…

And we wait for the weekends. Or “mom and dad days” as my youngest calls it. That’s when chaos hits the house. That’s when we go wild. And when my poor wife suffers the most. The three kids and a suffering mama.

So today was a special day in more ways than one. Dad was home in the middle of the week. We had fun. We got up and sang “Happy Birthday” and opened presents. We had breakfast and went to say a quick hello to the teacher across the road. Family phoned in from South Africa. Off to swimming to see the girls in their swimming classes – it was the first time I came to watch. Back home for a lunch together. Played some Wii and other games with the new toys. Off to the party across the road with all her friends – and more presents to open. Played outside with the friends for while and then back home. It was a great, great day. A full day. They had a blast. And they did loads. She had fun. And so did her sister.

And then we got together to sit and have dinner together. It was a favourite of hers – mash, sausage, butternut and chicken in crumbs. And we joked a bit more and pulled faces at the table and ate funny. Mom gave up and just put her face in her hands and laughed – this is when we know she is the matriarch looking after her den. And we looked at the girls and asked, “So what was the best part of the day for you?”

And they both said, “When dad came to watch us swim”.

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