Another year, another compromising situation where I find myself helping little girls and boys on to the flying fox at the playground. They're not my kids. They are complete strangers. It's just that my girl Mia is in line and these other little ones want a ride too.

But you know what - unlike last year, when the same thing happened to me a number of times and it made me feel wary - sinister even - I didn't give a hoot. I helped the kids up without caring what their parents - wherever the hell they were - would think.

The reason for my stand was not some sort of chest-beating male rights crusade. It was simply because finally, after four years and two kids, I feel more confident as a dad.
That might sound a little grand to some but like many blokes, I had to learn to be a dad. Yes, some things, like playing with my girls and giving them lots of hugs and kisses, came naturally.

But then there are the more difficult matters of fatherhood - things like dealing with discipline and sickness to dressing them and packing the nappy bag. Honestly, there is an art to the latter because if you forget something and disaster strikes while you're out then it can get messy. And my eldest Mia ended up wearing some horrendous ensembles of mismatched outfits and clashing colours because of me.


Of course, the first thing you have to do to be a dad is grow up and relinquish your glory days. The early morning starts and being slaves to your kids every whim helps with that.
But then the hard work really starts - and I don't mean enduring sleep deprived nights changing nappies and trying to get them to sleep.

I mean things like getting them to do what you want while still treating them like human beings. These days, with a mix of persuasion, cunning, bribery and knowing when to let something go, I'm pretty much on top of it.

Then there's the seemingly impossible knack of keeping calm rather than loosing your rag when they are whining and moaning and generally being a real pain in the bum. Okay, so I have lapses where I have to take myself off to Time Out to calm down - but generally, I'm a cool cucumber.

One thing I found extra hard when I was looking after Mia during the day by myself was keeping up a solid routine with feeding, sleeps and the like. It seems simple but it relies on you keeping an eye on the clock and quite often I didn't. Typical male.

But hey, previous to having kids, about as routine as I got was getting up in the morning and putting the coffee on the stove.

Also these days I even trust myself to decide which cream is best to treat nappy rash and when to dish out a dose of Pamol. My wife loves this more decisive me because there are less - quite often self explanatory and mundane - questions directed at her.

And after work, because I'm always at home first, you should see me in action cooking dinner. The pots are bubbling away on the stove, the meat sizzling in the oven, and at the same time I am feeding nine month old Katie whose grizzling in the high chair because she hates being restrained and she'd rather have her milk but she's not going to get it until 6.30pm because she needs to start eating a lot more real food than she is. So just eat up your broccoli, kumara and chicken mash my darling.

Phew. I tell ya, I am DAD, hear me roar.