Undoubtedly moving to Australia had a huge effect on my daughters. They became teenage girls on Lance Armstrong levels of hormones. Their new powers became too strong for me. Just the other day I was told by my tormentors that I was, and I quote, a ‘basic white dad’.
I had been reduced to this, and no longer worthy of their respect. However, the biggest change in my girls was in the area of . . . boys.
Let me tell you this: nothing in life prepares you for the first time you see your daughter making out with her first boyfriend. Nothing.
This was always going to happen. But nothing prepares you.
One day I came home and found Ruby, who had turned fifteen, and a young man lying down—lying down!—together on my couch!
It was all too much. We’d gone from no interest in boys to lying down on the couch with them. WTF! Don’t you work up, or down, to that? Did I mention they were lying down?
I had to take a knee just to catch my breath. Life had hit me hard. I know she was fifteen, and this was what she should be doing, and enjoying, and . . . but . . . she had her first boyfriend.
I always wanted to be one of those cool dads. I thought I would be, because my job is pretty cool. I was interviewing U2 frontman Bono, and we were talking about being dads. I put it to him that he’d actually be that rare thing—a cool dad.
‘You’d think so,’ he said. Then he told a story about Jay-Z and Beyoncé staying at his home in Dublin. Pretty cool, right? Two of the world’s hottest stars, staying at yours! The bragging rights over your mates would be huge.
‘Your kids must’ve been blown away,’ I said to Bono.
He continued his story, saying that at one point during the night, he went to get some more wine and on the way he happened to overhear his fifteen-year-old daughter on the phone. And word for word, this is what she was saying: ‘Yeah, Dad’s in there now, boring the arse off them about third-world debt.’
Then Bono told me: ‘The thing was, Christian, I was boring the arse off them about third-world debt.’ Those nights round at Bono’s must really fly.
Anyway, this just shows that no dad is cool. Don’t even waste your time trying. A modern dad is a terrified half-man. Scared of screwing up his kid’s self-esteem, and scared he’s being a terrible parent. Pretending to understand TikTok.
Us modern dads are caring and sensitive. We read blogs on sugar intake and know that gluten is the most dangerous gateway drug in the world. Our parents weren’t like this. I don’t think I had a glass of water until I was 32.
My kids aren’t really that scared of me. They shouldn’t be. Well, maybe just a little bit. But the only thing I have over them is turning off the wi-fi.
All of which explains why, when I met my daughter’s boyfriend for the first time, he wasn’t quaking in my presence. Which upset me.
I said ‘Hello’ and ‘Nice to meet you.’ And then I did something really sad. Any time the kids have a friend over, I, as a hard-wired professional people-pleaser, start to do some schtick so they’ll like me.
Yes, I’m saying I wanted my daughter’s boyfriend to like me. I actually went giddy when Ruby told me after he’d left, ‘He said your dad’s funny.’ Which was nice, although part of me would have preferred, ‘He actually shat his pants when he met you.’
Part of me would have preferred, ‘He actually shat his pants when he met you.’
I knew she had a ‘boyfriend’ but seeing him, in my own home, lying down on my couch, was something else. I was happy for her—it’s an amazing time in our lives, those first flushes of young love.
Just maybe don’t have that amazing time in my house, or on my couch.
So, my daughter, my angel, the little girl whose tiny little cute shoes I used to put on her tiny little cute feet, is on the couch before me, interlocked with a boy. And while she was high on the rush, I’d hit a new low.
My life as a dad, as I’d known it, was suddenly over. I felt like a fading football coach, sacked from the job I’d held successfully for years. Now I had to reapply as some kind of dad consultant.
Thanks, Australia, for your super dose of teenage hormones, and for boys keen on my girl.
As her boyfriend was leaving, Ruby, having waved him off with her face flushed with joy, turned to me, who was staring silently and taking in the scene, and said:
‘This must be hard for you, Dad, it must feel like you’ve been replaced.’
Thanks, daughter, for helping me identify just what that searing aching pain in my heart is. I had been replaced. Nothing had prepared me. Parenthood is a constant cycle of arrivals and departures. My little girl was arriving in a new place in her life. And I was departing.
Replaced . . .
From ‘No One Listens to Your Dad’s Show’ by Christian O’Connell, the funny and moving story of Christian O’Connell’s very public journey from number one to no one. Published by Allen & Unwin and available now in all good book stores.