Passing on dad’s wise ways to my children

Ahead of Father’s Day on Sunday, we celebrate dads across two generations, asking six dads their favourite things about how their fathers parented them — and how that influenced them as dads with their children.

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon has two daughters in their 20s.

On his dad, Frank he says: “I loved that he brought us with him to so many things he was involved in. We were all piled into the car and brought to football matches. Donegal won the Ulster Championship for the first time in 1972. They won again in 1974. We were at both those history-making matches. It meant going to Croke Park, we had the cup coming home — really powerful memories.

“It was the same when he played golf — we were stuck by his side. We were part of his life. He was always so proud, introducing us. It was a good day out, there’d be ice-cream — lovely memories he created.

Dr Niall Muldoon: "We were part of his life. He was always so proud, introducing us." Pic. Michael Dillon Photographer
Dr Niall Muldoon: “We were part of his life. He was always so proud, introducing us.” Pic. Michael Dillon Photographer

“I went to my girls’ events in the same way as we went to his. They were leading me — ‘are you coming Daddy?’. I always made sure I was there, whether swimming, basketball, Gaelic. So it came full circle.

“My dad was always serving the community — that idea of giving back. I certainly picked that up. I hope I conveyed it to my girls too.

“Dad’s motto was ‘work hard where you are, and other things will happen’ — you mightn’t always like the job you’re in but if you work hard, it’ll lead you to something. My daughters took that on. When they were younger, [working] a part-time job, maybe had a 6am start — even when it was tough they were there.”

Allowing children their freedom

Daithí Ó Sé, dad to 10-year-old Mícheál Óg, on his dad, Maidhc Dainín:

“My father went out to work in the morning — he came home and went off to another job. He was always first out in the morning, last back in the evening. He worked really hard for all of us, making sure we had what we wanted.

“Dads today spend more time with their children. I made a conscious decision to try not to work weekends. [Because] it’s not all about money, but about spending time with family. Looking back, people who worked very hard all along, a lot must have asked later ‘what was it all about?’ I didn’t want that happening to me.

Daithí Ó Sé: "Dads today spend more time with their children. I made a conscious decision to try not to work weekends. [Because] it’s not all about money, but about spending time with family."
Daithí Ó Sé: “Dads today spend more time with their children. I made a conscious decision to try not to work weekends. [Because] it’s not all about money, but about spending time with family.”

“Any word of inspiration I got from my father was ‘go out, get a job, stay out of trouble, get over yourself’. He had a saying: ‘Tá tú óg, agus gan do chroí briste fós’ — ‘you’re young and haven’t yet had your heart broken’.

“He let me plough my own furrow, there was no strict parenting with him. There was a freedom with that, which I liked. You have to leave kids go, give them freedom. They have to fail so as to learn — you can’t always pick up the pieces. They have to jump over the ditch and land in nettles — that’s OK. In the long run it’s better for them.”

Learning a laidback attitude

Studyclix co-founder Luke Saunders (dad to Eden, 10, Christian, eight, and Alex, five) on his father, Rory:

“He put a lot of trust in me. He believed if you give children trust they repay you by not doing crazy things. I’ve brought that to my parenting. I see it in teaching too — if you give older kids in particular your trust, treat them as mature as you can get away with, they respond to that. If you micro-manage everything, they kick back.

“My dad went above and beyond to support my activities — for me, surfing as a teen. He wasn’t a surfer, but pretty much every weekend, he’d pile me and my friends into his car and drive us to the west coast. We could arrive in Lahinch at 10pm on a Friday, see the waves wouldn’t be good, say, ‘Any chance you’d drive us to Sligo’, and he would. He was very much up for an adventure. I’m always trying to get my kids out for an adventure. I got that from him.

“He wasn’t the kind to get overly-anxious about things. Parents are always trying to say the right things to kids, talk to them about stuff. That’s perfectly valid. But so much of parenting is how you respond to situations. The way my dad innately behaved carried through to me. My laid-back attitude is from him.”

Realising the importance of play

From Lads to Dads founder Dave Saunders (has two grown-up children) on his father, Tony:

“The moments that really resonated were when we were doing fun things — football, holidays in Wexford when we’d go swimming in the sea, play games on the beach. When he showed up for football — for any sports events — it meant a lot.

“Just checking in with me — ‘how are you doing, how’s things?’ Showing up, being continuously present, meant a lot.

From Lads to Dads founder Dave Saunders.
From Lads to Dads founder Dave Saunders.

“He was really a funny man. He did stuff. He was in plays, acting, big into football — it was great to watch him do things he enjoyed. As a young kid I looked up to that.

“From him, I realised the importance of play, of being outdoors, active with your kids, of spending time in nature. I also understood the importance of the everyday moments of consistently showing up, letting your kids know you’re there for them no matter what. These little moments build to a bigger relationship long-term.”

Gaining a prism of tolerance

Journalist and author Peter Murtagh (has a grown-up son and daughter) on his dad, Tom:

“He was a light touch dad, not overpowering. He let us develop, get on with things, be who we were, or were developing into. He never put barriers in our way, beyond those to look after our safety and wellbeing. If I said ‘I want to do this’, he’d say fine, do your best, give it a go.

“He took me sea-fishing off Dun Laoghaire pier. My great fondness for it came from him. He taught me how to swim as an 11-year-old in Blackrock Baths, holding my chin up so I could breathe.

“That generation of Church of Ireland — Dad was born in 1919 — had certain phrases that defined their outlook: ‘Do unto others what you would have done unto you.’ That moral compass stuff came from him and Mum.

Peter Murtagh, author and journalist.
Peter Murtagh, author and journalist.

“My parents were liberal in outlook. I am too. I know my children see the world through a prism of tolerance and social justice.

“Dad was in the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society. I remember him on the Gaiety stage — in an audience of hundreds and seeing him made up, dressed up, acting. I didn’t know any other dads who did that. He was a bit of a character. My [siblings] say some of it rubbed off on me — it might also have on my daughter.

“He wasn’t adventurous in the way I am — at 71, riding a motorbike to the top North Cape of Norway. That wasn’t his thing but he’d have been amused, intrigued by it — which goes back to the early years where he didn’t hamper me, but let me do it my way.”

  • From Tip to Top: The journey of a lifetime from Chile to Alaska, Peter Murtagh, out now (€18.99, Gill Books).

Just being there as a dad

King of Swing Luke Thomas (dad to five-year-old Heidi) on his father, Luke:

“My dad was the quieter parent. His way of articulating love was making sure I was dropped off at football practice. Even when I was a sub for the whole season, he was there in all weathers. He had no interest in football, he was there because I was — I felt the impact of that support.

“Even when I got into entertainment, he’d drop me to gigs. It wasn’t his main interest but it was mine, so he was there. That was huge.

Luke Thomas: "my patience, my giving support, creating structure — my dad reinforced all that side"
Luke Thomas: “my patience, my giving support, creating structure — my dad reinforced all that side”

“With Heidi, my patience, my giving support, creating structure — my dad reinforced all that side. That you know you have to be there, follow through, be that support, that provider. It’s a blessing, having a child. From when Heidi was really small [I was] around a lot — because I felt that as a huge benefit to me from my dad.”

Luke Thomas takes on the Costa del Sol with his favourite musicians, October 16-22 — for an eclectic mix of genres. See: countrymusictours.ie

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