Mark Dwyer: Life’s Greatest Gift – Fatherhood

Mark Dwyer: Life’s Greatest Gift – Fatherhood

By: Mark Dwyer

“A father holds his daughter’s hand for a short while, but he holds her heart forever.”

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What makes a 47-year-old man listen to base-thumping hip hop music with lyrics that would make a biker blush?

Why would a middle-aged dude carelessly try to learn Fortnite dances? Why, you ask, would a fella inching towards 50 know the cast of Riverdale, and exactly how much foundation and concealer costs at Sephora?

Very special bond

Well, the answer is easy. I have two incredible daughters and – despite the sketchy lyrics and endless YouTube dance videos – I feel blessed to share their journey. The relationship between a father and a daughter is a very special bond. There are cozy hugs and dirty looks, high-fives and heavy sighs.

My life changed 15 years ago.

You see, I grew up in a home where four sports-crazed brothers jockeyed for ‘territory’ like a shot-caller on a prison yard. We literally boxed for fun. The mixed martial arts cage was our carpeted living room and we were stitched up more than a pair of hand-me-down gray flannels. The Dwyer home of the 1970s was a ponytail-free zone.

It stayed that way for me until, well, Oct. 16, 2003. That’s the day a gorgeous little red head changed everything. Claire brought some much-needed girl power to the clan. Her spunky little sister, Madison arrived almost 10 years ago and, together, these beauties have a hold on me stronger than any sibling wrestling move from the ‘70s.

They are similar in some ways yet vastly different, each with their own list of interests. One is an elite volleyball player who loves to sing, while the other plays atom hockey with the boys and is a die-hard dancer. They’re little fashionista’s who are also athletic and artsy, comfortable in competition and their own skin.

I’ve been asked many times if I’d like a son, a little Markie to toss around the ball with in the back yard or shoot hoops with. Nope. Truth is, there’s absolutely nothing missing in my life. I’m so blessed and thankful for what I do have. Personally and professionally, I’ve been very fortunate. However, nothing compares to watching your child achieve something – from taking those first wobbly steps to conquering the potty. I swallowed hard watching them both leave pre-school and skip off to kindergarten, and celebrate each report card like it’s a Harvard degree.

Love a little harder

I refuse to take these moments for granted. Some aren’t as fortunate. My sister-in-law, Loretta, left us in her early 20s after a heroic battle with Cystic Fibrosis and, not to be morbid, but losing someone so young makes you love a little harder.

As a dad, each milestone is victory and each setback is a lesson. And I seem to be learning much more from them these days. Claire is teaching me that being a good sport is far better than being great at sports. And she’s a winner at both. 

Maddie, just nine, is teaching me that her mini-dance competition team is more unified, more devoted, than any provincial or national champion team I’ve played with. When your child cries following her last rehearsal because she’ll miss her dance ‘family’, you know she’s chosen the right stage.

Being a dad teaches you the best lessons. I’ve learned the power of a hug and the value of saying nothing. Seriously, sometimes a simple “good morning” can prompt an eye roll from your 15-year-old daughter. Who knew? Truth is, I was also that 15-year-old at one time – insulated by my little high school world and indifferent to my parents’ endless sacrifices. But time changes perspective.

This dad’s love is unconditional –stronger than any eye roll, heavier than any icky lyric, more durable than anything on the shelves at Sephora. I’d gladly puff my chest in front of the firing squad to save them an ounce of pain. But that’s how most dad’s roll, even if we’re not cool.

So here’s a heartfelt thank you to my little beauties this Father’s Day, a thank-you for giving me the greatest gift – Fatherhood.

Mark Dwyer is NTV’s Director of News and Current Affairs. He’s won numerous Atlantic and national awards for his work over the past 25 years.

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