Jonathan Seidler is an Australian writer. This is his column for Esquire.

IN THE THREE or so months since Esquire graciously gifted me this column, I’ve interrogated many of the new experiences that I hadn’t entirely been briefed on before becoming a father. Issues like losing touch with your friends while making new ones you hadn’t planned on, dealing with impatience and temper around a tiny person or trying to backpedal out of a role that’ll have you on calls during bath time

Much like modern motherhood, early stage fatherhood is a complete clusterfuck of inherited wisdom, frantic 2AM Googling and unhelpful advice from people on Instagram sporting whiter teeth than you. I feel like I’ve weathered this onslaught relatively well, all things considered, but recently I’ve encountered a new challenge that has knocked me for six, no matter how many times I read up on or try to rationalise it.       

Some days, my daughter just doesn’t want a bar of me. 

To be clear, the girl is now 18 months old. She is still very much in the early stages of understanding and feeling out her independence. That’s what this is all about. It’s a completely natural, normal thing that happens to almost every parent, and it’s not always dads either. This is the commonsense justification I use to paper over the fact that it makes me really upset. If Possible I Would Go And Cry In A Room Somewhere upset. Slam Doors Like I’m 15 And My Parents Won’t Let Me Have A Mobile Phone upset. 

I can’t do this, though, because I’ve recently embarked on the slow decline towards 40 and besides, my child already knows how to take selfies on my phone, so I doubt I’ve got less than 10 years of bargaining power on the no phone front. Instead, I stand in the kitchen and watch as she giggles with my wife, or refuses to let anybody but my mother-in-law hold her and valiantly pretend like my heart hasn’t been pulled out of my chest with a corkscrew.

Through a combination of great ’90s film and TV, as well as the general consensus held by our culture, I was led to believe that by us having had a daughter, I was in for an easy ride, especially when she became a teenager and inevitably turned on her mother for a few years–as my wife did to hers. And believe me, most of the time, the ride is easy. Dads and daughters have special connections–take Homer and Lisa Simpson, Maurice and Belle or, you know, Tony and Meadow Soprano for example. What many of these screen depictions miss out on, however, are the early years of the child’s life. You only ever see daughters’ relationships with their dads when they’re sentient, saxophone blasting, Pepsi-slurping eight or nine year olds.    

As adults, we excuse many strange things our children do that make no logical sense to us. It’s part of the deal, and as many older parents–including my own–go to great pains to remind me, once kids can talk, sometimes, they make even less sense. 

But for some reason, I still struggle to understand this development. On a practical level, it feels like investing all your efforts into a volatile stock that refuses to even pay dividends. But more than that–even though, rationally, I know it’s not–it smacks of failure. I’m sure I feel this way because in our patriarchal society, men aren’t exactly conditioned to understand or necessarily accept failure. And when it comes to something I’ve poured blood, sweat, tears and much of my disposable income into keeping happy and healthy, there are definitely times when I struggle to understand or accept why things aren’t going the way I want them to. 

The hard part is, it’s not a particularly practical struggle. It’s emotional and primal, which makes it incredibly difficult not to be deeply affected by. Lately, I have no idea when I wake my daughter up from her lunchtime nap if she’s going to smile at me or scream bloody murder until I leave the room. It can sometimes happen to my wife, too, especially if there’s a grandmother in the vicinity. This alone should prove to me that such behaviour is indiscriminate, but still, it hurts.

From what I’ve learned, being a parent can often seem like you’re flying blind while simultaneously trying to avoid large structures that didn’t even exist when you took off. In a perverse way, this rejection proves that you’re doing the right thing. The kid is developing her own opinions, and, as someone whose job it is to dispense theirs in the media, the notion that she should love me blindly 24/7 is a bit rich.

Recently, I talked to my father-in-law about this problem. He’s raised three kids of his own, including two girls. It transpired he’d been getting similar reactions from his new granddaughter, who typically adores him. The man is in his sixties. He’s seen this all before. So it surprised me that he also seemed genuinely upset, despite knowing it was a passing phase. It was also very touching to hear, and to know that I wasn’t alone. 

Perhaps, it could be that the most uncomfortable phases of our kids’ lives bring out the best in us as parents, and men. While it’s not easy, I’m going to have to settle for anything, I’ll be happy with that. 

Jonathan Seidler is an Esquire columnist and the author of It’s A Shame About Ray (Allen & Unwin).

Like all proper columns, this one will be back next week. You can see every one of Jonno’s columns for Esquire here.