Category Archives: Fatherhood

Just because I wasn’t there doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile!

I have guilty parent syndrome.

The challenge of fitting 4 weeks annual leave into 16 weeks of school holidays every year leaves me thinking that my boys have missed out; that their holiday experiences have not been worthwhile.

It’s not that my wife or myself do not spend time with our boys during the school breaks, it’s just we simply cannot spend ALL the time with them. We tend to assume to role of holiday program coordinator for when we’re not available – arranging incredible people to hang with them and for visits to friends. This often includes park trips, movies, swimming, sleepovers, theme parks, sport and for one of our boys this recent holiday, even a speed boat adventure!

So on the face of it, I reckon our boys thoroughly enjoy their holidays. And they enthusiastically (well, mostly…) proclaim they do.

It’s just that if I’m not there, I tend to think it wasn’t worthwhile… guilty parent syndrome.

Whilst my presence changes the dynamic and is certainly important, my absence does NOT equate to a lack of value. And this is something that seeps into other areas of my life. It’s almost as if I’m suggesting that without my direct involvement, something isn’t as worthwhile for all the other participants. This is more about my insecurity than anything else.

I need to have confidence in the plans I have developed, the people I have engaged  and allow them to create an experience with their touch. This then allows for those times when I am directly involved, for experiences to be flavoured by me, a genuine point of difference!

Whether it be family or work or anywhere else, we need to ascertain when we can be directly engaged and those times when we can’t, or perhaps, even shouldn’t. Empowering others should make an activity more worthwhile, not less.

Let’s create an experience-rich environment for our families and colleagues, with and without us!


A beautiful mayhem

A television ad caught my attention recently when it described family life as ‘beautiful mayhem’. Across my 16 years as a parent I have sometimes used ‘organised chaos’ to describe the mundane activity of family but never beautiful mayhem.

Family epitomises something which can be in equal measure beautiful and chaotic. Frustration for parents arises when we expect it to be solely one or the other.

Parents (I’m looking at myself right now!) can set the bar too high, expecting that family life is meant to be some form of beautiful simplicity; smooth-sailing with compliant children, parents managing outcomes as they navigate the parenthood path. The converse is also true – an expectation that family life equals pure mayhem, chaos following disaster with parents resigned to a lack of control and influence. The reality is somewhere in between – this ‘beautiful mayhem’.

A challenge I’m all too aware of is seeing the beauty amidst the mayhem and calling that out. We can routinely allow cherished moments to pass by without bringing them to the surface, archiving them as lost in the mayhem. Our kids then recall only the chaos, the challenge, the confusion.

As parents we need to train our eyes and our hearts to create, identify and reinforce the beauty of each situation. This will equip our kids with an instinct for finding the beauty which then positions them to bring encouragement and life.

In the midst of chaos, we can feel overwhelmed, weighted down by the challenge. As parents we have to decide that we will do things differently, view situations with a fresh set of eyes. This starts with how we view our role as a parent.

Are we there to simply ensure our kids survive until adulthood when they’re on their own? Or are we called to equip our kids with the tools (attitudes, beliefs and practical skills) for them to be life-bringers? By adjusting how we see our critical role as a mum or dad, we will not only impact how we parent but also the destination to where our parenting guides our family.

Amidst the mayhem, what are you doing to call out the whimsical, the fun, the ridiculous, the beauty?


Oiling when there is no noise…

We’ve all heard the saying ‘the noisy wheel gets the oil’ (or a version thereof!), but what about the wheel from which no squeak emanates; the wheel that just seems to be working? What do we do about that?

Place this in the context of relationships – be it within the family, the workplace, a team. Much leadership effort can be consumed by the ‘noisy wheel’ – the person requiring emotional support, the team member with the knowledge gap, the child regularly ‘in trouble’. And whilst investing energy and resources into the individual is required, we must ensure it’s not at the expense of others. Just because there’s no noise, doesn’t mean oil is not required!

We need to be deliberate in how we invest into people. We need to manage our own capacity to ensure we have sufficient in reserve to extinguish bush fires that flare whilst consistently checking on the health and well-being of those not so noisy. Each of us benefits from acknowledgement of a job well done, encouragement in the face of adversity, opportunities to learn and grow, but it may not be as obvious in some of us.

Make a decision today to look around your world – your workplace, your family, your team – the person not making noise could be the one needing the oil.


DO or WITH – which is more important?

My wife and I often wonder what we did with all that spare time we must have had before the kids came along. Not that we’re longing for the ‘good old days’, but rather understanding that we probably didn’t place as much value on our time back then.

The more full life becomes, the greater the value you place on your time. Simple law of economics really: scarce resource + high demand = increased value! As a dad, it’s easy for me to consistently place my interests or my (perceived J) needs ahead of my boys’. And sometimes, this is entirely appropriate. Other times, not necessarily so…

A key I’ve learned parenting over the past 16 years is that I don’t necessarily have to enjoy the stuff I do with my kids. The enjoyment should come in the fact I’m doing it with my boys, shoulder-to-shoulder. Be it playing soccer, going for an early morning swim, helping them with homework, watching Minions for the 10th time, or guiding them in the finer points of Monopoly… Don’t get me wrong, I often DO enjoy these things, but not always!

The focus of enjoyment should be our kids, not the thing we’re doing. I find that if I remember this very simple point the time I invest with my boys is likely to be much more enjoyable for everyone involved!


A final farewell

My 2014 didn’t quite commence the way I anticipated. My dad passed away 24 January. My mum gave me the incredible honour of sharing the eulogy at his funeral.

This is my final farewell to Colin Joseph Mahoney, born 30 May 1931, died 24 January 2014…

“A source of credit or distinction / high respect as for worth, merit or rank” is how one dictionary explains the term honour. I’m not sure if our modern western society understands this term and how to apply it but thankfully I was reminded of it at a family gathering a couple of years back.

Our family had come across the country to celebrate dad’s 80th birthday.This was planned to be a joyous occasion and at the event I realised it was much more than that. People representing the many seasons of my dad’s life, including many of you here today, had gathered not simply to celebrate this magnificent milestone of 80 years, but to give honour.

Honour to a man of integrity, to a man who worked ridiculously long hours building a family business to afford us a great lifestyle and opportunity, a man, who like the rest of us, may not have realised all his dreams yet remained a loving father and husband.

Sure, dad, along with most men of his era, was not expressive with his love but his commitment to family could never be questioned. The joy upon my dad’s face on the day of the event and for days afterwards was priceless. And this is simply because we gave him what he deserved every day, honour.

And this is again the opportunity we all have today, to honour Colin Joseph Mahoney as each of us knew him. As a husband, as a father, as a boss, as part of the fighting Irish football fraternity, as the plumber who came out at a moment’s notice to fix your blocked drain (often with his wife or one of his son’s in tow), as the volunteer (again with a son or two who also “volunteered”) mowing the lawns or cleaning the toilets at Holy Family or St John Fishers. From whatever realm you knew my dad, I am sure you’d have a great story to share and agree that he is deserving of honour.

Growing up in 1930s Townsville was certainly different to today. Townsville’s first airport opened becoming commissioned as a RAAF base. The CWA huts had recently been built on the Strand and following a shark attack, the first shark-proof swimming enclosure was erected across the road. Living in Mitchell Street, North Ward, this was the Mahoney’s backyard; the playground for Pat, Col, Ray and Honour whilst their parents Elsie and Tom (Musso) probably didn’t wonder where the kids were as long as their errands were getting done!

This backyard was also invaded by Japanese bombs during WW2 – the bombs missed their targets and no damage occurred. Air-raid drills became a regular part of the school day. The town’s population trebled to 90,000 with the influx of American troops. Many staples, including ice, was in short supply. These facts somehow didn’t make it to the stories dad shared about this time. He spoke about the adventures exploring Kissing Point, checking out the US military installations, starting school right here at St Josephs and later the daily trudge up the hill to Our Lady’s Mount.

Kids errands looked a little different back then as well. Bike rides to the South Townsville ice works every 2nd day ensured food remained fresh in the ice chest. Pat, Col and Ray would carry the slabs of ice across their handlebars, hurrying along before the slabs melted too much. The Mahoney boys would also ride their bikes from Mitchell St to the dairy in Belgian Gardens, collecting 2 large cans of milk, one of which would be dropped off to the Christian Brothers and the other left for a later pick up by the priests at the Cathedral. They were also the home delivery boys for the Catholic newspapers of the day, collecting them from the Post Office for personalised delivery by bike.

Post-war, things changed for Townsville and Col. Rugby league, though, continued to be the mainstay of the Mahoney clan. Sunday afternoons at the Sports Reserve were almost a ritual. Being a good Catholic boy, Col played, of course, for Brothers. Hazel would also be at the Sports Reserve cheering on her brother Bill who was a Centrals lad. One could think Brothers & Centrals – never the twain shall meet! But obviously there was a greater plan afoot. Hazel got to know Col’s younger sister Honour at the footy. Perhaps this was part of Hazel’s plan to meet the Mahoney boys?? Not long after, Colin met Hazel, and a future together was created.

Dad was a plumber at that stage having started his apprenticeship with JR Wylie & Sons, the plumbing market leader of the day. Col was sent away to Cairns to work on the hospital, boarding at a hotel and riding his bike to work. Dad was also part of the team that saw the Tully and Townsville  Hospitals open. With slightly different OH&S rules back then, I remember dad speaking about heating asbestos over open fires to create batches of insulation needed for the hospital piping.

September 1954 saw the marriage of Colin and Hazel, setting up home in the new suburb of Currajong, complete with gravel tracks and no hot water. Col was obviously a planner as the home was completed in August ready for their move in the following month. Col was still playing footy at this stage until a broken jaw brought forward his retirement.

Col was one for adventure. On their way from work, Haze and Col would occasionally swing by his mum’s place to pick up a potato pie for dinner. The ute they had then was a crank start. On one such visit after collecting said potato pie, mum was in the passenger seat, dad was out front cranking and dad’s sister Honour was watching her big brother. The car cranks alright and takes off down Mitchell Street with Honour clambering out-of-the-way, mum hanging on in the driverless car, and Col chasing it down. Suffice to say, Col caught the car and potato pie was enjoyed for dinner! This ute was apparently so unreliable that they used to carry 2 bikes in the back ready for a breakdown. Big brother Pat would then be solicited to tow the ute home!

Not long after, they locked up the house at Howlett St and headed to Mt Isa for 2 years. Dad, still working with Wylies, was involved with a project at the mine. This is where dad’s romantic nature surfaced. Renting a flat in the Isa, the place had malthoid flooring – this is the bitumen style product normally reserved for roofing! As well the obvious residential style, mum and dad enjoyed the comforts of cold water only, an ice chest and a wood stove. It was this wood stove, and its obvious need for fuel, that meant each Friday afternoon dad would take mum out bush to source timber. Hand in hand, a picnic blanket – well not quite. Dad, being the very practical man he was, quickly realised two axes are obviously better than one, so dad naturally bought mum an axe. Haze still has this original axe! A few years back, dad was obviously concerned about the effectiveness of the original axe so he bought mum a new one! Even romance looked different back in the day!

Returning to Townsville, mum and dad took a huge risk. Borrowing £600, they said yes to a business partnership opportunity with Slim Corby, dad’s 2nd boss at Wylie & Sons. Corby & Mahoney was born. However, I doubt mum expected that this was the start of her plumbing apprenticeship! Mum cleaned septic sewers, unblocked drains in addition to payroll and quotes. An employee of Corby and Mahoney obviously had to be versatile! Dad oversaw many apprentices – his approach was he would show you what to do and then expect you to do it, and do it well! If not, then some choice words, an older style of professional development I suppose, would encourage the apprentice to have another go. This worked as his apprentices recall the positive impact Col had upon their lives, not just their jobs.

Col and Haze had 8 children. I’ve often wondered why so many but I suspect its because mum became tired of being dad’s offsider in unblocking sewers and thought 5 boys would alleviate this as an issue for her!

There is no ignoring the fact that dad worked hard and long. Mum did the Saturday sporting trips to Mindham Park and the Murray Sporting Complex because dad was working. It was through this work that dad’s commitment to his family is recognised. He did sacrifice a lot to provide what he believed was the best opportunities possible for his children.

He also exemplified living a life for others. We were all regularly volunteered to help clean the toilets at Holy Family or mow the lawns at St John Fishers. Every year, we’d collect ute loads of coconuts for the coconut shy at SJF fete. The Mahoney family was the non-resident groundskeepers at SJF. Mum even recalls many a Sunday night lying in bed asking Col if he turned off the sprinklers at SJF. More often than not, the answer would be a grumbling no, prompting a trip up the road in the ute with Col in his PJs wandering around the school. This too could be viewed a little differently today!

Each of Col’s children can share a story or three about the generosity of mum and dad. They always made sure their home was open to our friends, even if our friends were on the front footpath at 5:30am playing guitar and reading Col’s recently delivered newspaper!

I’d like to finish where I began, with honour. Today is about honouring a committed man who gave everything for his family, a bold man who took risks to have a go, a practical man with a bonding-in-the-moment sense of humour, a man who we all affectionately knew either as Col, Dad or Poppy.

Life and death is all part of God’s plan. Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) “So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed; for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Col, Dad, Poppy – we love you. You are missed. But we are pleased you are now at peace and with God.

I shared this today for 2 reasons: firstly, to again honour my dad, and secondly, to remind us that everyone has a story.

Let’s take a little extra time in 2014 to find out other people’s stories.


Becoming your kids’ greatest encourager

I don’t state that I’ve got it right. I know I’ve messed up from time to time (and will continue to do so!). But I do know that my actions, right and wrong, directly impact my boys.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my own life is encouragement. We all need an encourager – someone we trust who is in our corner, supporting us, helping us get back up, giving us every reason to go again.

As a dad, it is my responsibility to be my kids’ greatest encourager. I need to be the one delivering the motivation to try something for the first time, to try again when the first (or second or third!) attempt failed, to celebrate the wins and to navigate the losses.

The “trick” is showing, not just saying. I need to… (dare I use the cliché?) lead by example. We can use all the right words; we can be ringside ready to offer our wisdom but if we’re not showing our kids how to live life positively, then we’re missing the mark. Intentions need to be validated by actions.

Of course there are times when an encouraging word or even a thumbs-up will prompt the desired action. But this will only continue to be successful if our kids see us having a go; if they are witness to us sometimes missing our shot yet trying again. Words and deeds need to be aligned.

As parents, we must be speaking into our children. Words of life, of hope, of possibility. Words that convey value and purpose. Words that promote perseverance and commitment. Our actions must then loudly proclaim these words.

Words will open the door, but actions will direct the journey.


Image credit: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo