An ode to my solo father, from a proud daddy’s girl

by HomeDecorBeauty


Lyric Waiwiri-Smith is a life & style reporter.

OPINION: One of my earliest memories with my dad is having to toddle along after him and my older sister while he went to university.

Dad was a single parent trying to raise two little girls while also trying to get his Honors degree, and in the school holidays we would accompany him on the bus from Hutt Valley to Victoria University.

He worked as a tutorial leader at the time, and at eight and five years old, my sister and I would sit at the back of the class while he taught, eating our snacks and coloring in.

This seemed a regular part of life; one of those boring tasks you would have to do with your parents like grocery shopping or visiting the post office, but looking back on it now I see dad was doing everything he could to give us the best care possible.

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Being a single father of two girls is no easy feat, but I’m grateful he taught me what it means to work hard and take care of the people you love.

When we think of solo parents, we tend to imagine single mothers and the ‘deadbeat dad’ stereotype.

It was confusing and painful for my sister and I at school when kids and teachers would ask us about our mum, as it was assumed that if we only had one parent, it was the dad who walked out on us.

Many people think all women have a maternal instinct built into them where craving babies and thriving in motherhood comes naturally.

Lyric Waiwiri-Smith's dad with her sister, Cody.

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Lyric Waiwiri-Smith’s dad with her sister, Cody.

Mothers can expertly change nappies and use their intuition to know exactly what their baby wants and needs, the assumptions go, while the father fumbles along hoping to do his best.

Dad says when he’d take me into the baby changing rooms in our local Westfield mall the mothers in the room would ask him if my mum was away for the day, then stare in disbelief when he told them he had me all the time.

It’s hard to envision a mum who doesn’t stay around for her kids, but some people aren’t always equipped to take care of children.

Dad stepped up and did the best he could for us, despite dealing with his own problems in the background – he was struggling with mental health issues and had his own little quirks, which he didn’t have an explanation for until he was diagnosed as autistic in his mid-40s.

Growing up and realizing our parents are their own people with their own struggles can be a difficult pill to swallow, but despite everything I can’t imagine having anyone else as a father and best friend.

Lyric Waiwiri-Smith and her dad Paul Smith in 2019.

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Lyric Waiwiri-Smith and her dad Paul Smith in 2019.

Dad is one of the funniest people I know. He can also be quiet and contemplative, obsessing over his collection of history books and favorite WW2 documentaries.

He entertains himself with the simple pleasures in life, like playing board games with us girls, or working on his passion projects like his van-turned-mobile-home so that he can one day live his van-life dream.

He talks endlessly about George Michael (who, funnily enough, I share a birthday with) and loves all sorts of ’80s pop music. When I visited him last, he reminisced about being an oddity as a teenage boy growing up in Invercargill who loved Janet Jackson’s music.

He fusses over my sister and I, despite us now being adults, and finds the idea of ​​either of us dating boys heartbreaking. A classic dad line is: “I remember when you were three years old and I was the only person you needed!”

He’s tried to get us interested in boyish things, of course, but neither my sister nor I have much patience to play cricket with him or watch a Tottenham match. We do, however, go on bike rides together, and over Christmas he taught me how to ride his skateboard.

All these factors make him a classic dad, and yet uniquely ours. We grew up feeling like we were allowed to be open and cry to him, and sometimes he cried to us.

Despite his years of “no boyfriends!” warnings, I can recall several moments where, in the throws of a breakup, I called him for comfort and support, sobbing my heart out over the phone.

Once, I remember him picking up one of these calls at 3am and listening to me cry over and over about some boy who had broken my heart. He stayed on the other end of the line, offering words of support and repeating the nickname he’d given me since childhood – “sweetheart”.

While writing this article, I asked Dad if he had a favorite memory from my childhood.

He came back with a list of moments that stuck out to him, including one where he took my sister and I to the Carter Observatory when I was three.

He says he remembers the toddler version of me having the best time, telling him I loved him and never wanted to leave home.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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