Boyhood

Father of 2 Nick Snelling describes the fleeting nature of childhood as he watches his boys grow up.

Someone asked me once what it’s like watching your children grow up. The thing is, you don’t. It just happens around you. Like the sapling from next door’s back yard you once couldn’t see, until the day comes when the branches reach over the fence and you only now notice them.

The clichés are all true. One minute they were the tiny infants you cradled tight, the soft down of their hair pressed to your nose as you inhale that intoxicatingly sweet baby smell. You love them so fiercely. They squeeze your pinkie with their tiny fist, they smile at your sing-song voice, and you feel it like a hard lump in your throat, a ball expanding in your chest. You wonder how something so perfect could ever have come from you.

Then they are rolling over, crawling on their own. You shout with delight as they take their first stumbling step, grinning big at you. They utter their first word and it seems a profundity. They decide they don’t want to wear nappies anymore, and you share their pride. And as each new shock comes, each little epiphany unfolds, you realise they are no longer the perfect baby, or the cute toddler, or the happy little boy or the strapping lad that they once were.

Now they’re running. Climbing. Their shoes no longer fit. They’re heavier now, harder to pick up. They stop mispronouncing the words that you so adored and you miss it. The foot that you once held in one palm is now bigger than your whole hand. They’re riding bikes and swimming. Reading and writing. Becoming better at things than you ever were. Growing defiant. Questioning your way of doing things. Chastising you for being over-protective. Finding their own way and evolving into their own person.

Along the way, if you have any degree of self-awareness, you’ll recognise traces of yourself in them – a facial expression, a turn of phrase, a way they hold themselves, a bad habit, a smile. You come to own your failures and mistakes as much as your successes, and you constantly wonder if you could have done more or less.

In sad, staggered little starts these truths hit you, but you quickly file them away as the norm. Because no one ever tells you it is bittersweet – that even as you celebrate each new milestone, you also mourn the child they once were, gone forever. Lost to old lined photos and faded, dog-eared memory.

When my partner fell pregnant, I called my mother and said, “I don’t know if we’re ready yet.” She said, “If you always wait until you’re ready, you never will be. You can always have a better job, more money or a bigger house. All you need is love. Life finds a way.”

Recounting it now, it seems a mere collection of clichés, and yet it remains the best advice I’ve ever received.

Since 2009, I have been a single dad with shared custody. I have my boys every weekend. I couldn’t bear to ever have been one of those fathers who only get to see their kids once a fortnight. I love my sons more than anything, and I realise I am very lucky that way. Luckier still that my new girlfriend also loves them, just as they adore her.

My youngest boy is seven. Kind, affectionate and empathetic, he is a very gentle, emotionally intelligent creature who still crawls into our bed every weekend morning for snuggles. Sometimes he drifts back to sleep, sometimes he kisses my eyelids until I wake, and sometimes we watch movie trailers and funny YouTubes. Then my other big, wild, rough ’n’ tumble lad of 10 will come in – the one who loves his sports, superheroes and surfing – and we will have a wrestle on the bed. Weirdly, he always wins.

I dread the day when all that inevitably stops. When they’re too old to want to cuddle their old man in bed. But it will. So until then I intend to savour it.

If my sons have taught me anything, it’s that life happens so quickly. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Recommended reading - Happy, healthy pets

Travel

5 tips for travelling with pets

Heading on a getaway with your furry friend? Here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Read more
Lifestyle

6 ways to keep your pets safe and happy over Christmas

The festive season can be stressful for the best of us. Keep your pet’s tail wagging with these tips

Read more
Lifestyle

7 ways pets make you healthier

Spending quality time with pets can positively affect your mood, health and overall wellbeing.

Read more
Lifestyle

Becoming a pet owner

Making the decision to become a pet owner is an exciting one

Read more
Travel

Camping with your dog

Planning to camp under the stars with your furry mate? Here’s 9 things to remember

Read more
Travel

Hitting the road with your pet

Bringing your pet with you on a trip makes exploring new surrounds double as fun!

Read more
Lifestyle

Protect your pet this summer

RSPCA shares its top tips for keeping your pet safe this summer.

Read more
Lifestyle

The perfect apartment dog

They don't shed hair, they don't bark, and they don't need much space. Meet the Italian Greyhound.

Read more
Lifestyle

Keep your dog’s tail wagging with Dr. Chris Brown

Dr Chris Brown's advice - Just like you, diet and exercise is key to your dog’s health and happiness

Read more
Lifestyle

Expanding pooches

Is your pooch watching its waistline?

Read more
Lifestyle

10 facts about cats and dogs

How well do you know your furry friend? We collected some facts that might surprise you.

Read more
Lifestyle

Dogs on show

The Royal Melbourne Dog Show showcases obedience, agility and responsible dog ownership.

Read more
Advice

5 tips for choosing the right pet for you

Pets bring so much love into your life – but choosing one is a big decision.

Read more
Experts

7 pet care tips from Dr Chris Brown

Give your favourite critter the best care with advice from the Bondi Vet

Read more
Health Check

Can pets make your kids healthier?

Studies show spending time with pets could actually improve kids' health as they grow up.

Read more
Lifestyle

How to keep your pet cool in summer

Here’s some safety tips to care for your pet on scorching (and potentially deadly) summer days.

Read more
Lifestyle

Choosing a pet dog

Which dog matches your lifestyle? Take a look at each breed’s characteristics to find the perfect match

Read more
Advice

Travelling with your pet – or leaving them behind

Making travel plans as a pet owner takes a little extra thinking.

Read more
Lifestyle

Why dog owners need pet insurance

Your dog loves you unconditionally - make sure their healthcare’s just as unconditional.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.