The priceless value of perseverance

by Damian O’Donnell

I had a great week end. It wasn’t great because of some extraordinary event, a fabulous party or even because the Cats had another thumping win. No, it was great because I went to the nursery with my 15 year old daughter and learned a wonderful lesson in perseverance.

She used to come to the shops with me all the time when she was little. We would go to the hardware and as I made my way to the “Paint” area to get a new brush or sandpaper, or to the “Garden” area to get new parts for the sprinkler system, Clare would disappear into the plumbing supplies and rummage through nuts and bolts and other assorted plumbing pipes and plastic things.

Her tiny blond figure would emerge from the maze of shelving, dressed as she liked to do in her blue striped working overalls, smiling like a miner who had just struck gold, and she would hold up a mysterious curved piece of specialized something-or-other and ask,

“Do we need one of these Daddy?”

“Not today” I would say. So she would disappear again and continue rummaging. Sure enough she would appear again moments later this time holding up a metal bracket or lawn mower spark plug,

“Do we need one of these Daddy?”

“Not today.”

But she grew. She grew up and, as is the natural course of things, grew away a bit. Going to the hardware with Dad became uncool; far better to sit at home in front of the computer or reading a book. I didn’t blame her. It’s just the way of things.
But I’ve never given up. For years I’ve asked if she wanted to come with me. I reckon I’ve asked a thousand times.

“No thanks Dad.”

I got used to the rejections; so used to them that my asking became something of a running joke. She would say “No thanks Dad” as soon as she heard the car keys jangling in my hands and before I’d even asked the question. We would exchange knowing smiles.

But not on Sunday. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a 15 year old? As I picked up my keys I asked the question and got,

“Yeah OK.”

So we went to the nursery and wandered and browsed and chatted and purchased a magnolia and crepe myrtle. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it.

So on the weekend as the world watched Jessica Watson battle and conquer, as Mark Webber overcame the odds, as the Bombers caused an upset by overpowering the fancied Saints, in the quiet suburbs my own efforts were rewarded and I had the value of perseverance rammed home again. A small time together with my oldest daughter, insignificant in a long life, but priceless nonetheless.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Dips , dad used to say to us on the farm” You can come and open gates if you like ” It ALWAYS meant -‘You HAVE to come and open the gates. Lucky we loved going with him anyway! Glad your daughter still enjoys the company of her dear old dad. It works in reverse as well. I often accompany son to doctors to enquire about-and pay for latest strained body part.

  2. Pamela – funny how a little thing can get you thinking. But I really did enjoy the time. Now looking forward to planting the trees, alas probably on my own.

    Bit disturbed that Gigs described me as “Feel Good” – I would have thought “Doctor Feel Good” was in order!

  3. John Butler says

    But Dips

    Would you want your daughter anywhere near those Motley Crue chaps?

  4. Danielle says

    Dips, i see what you mean.
    when i was younger i used to be really close to my dad, even went and watched him play volleyball every week.
    As time has gone on now i feel that i’m closer to my mum, it’s like she’s my older sister.
    Footy is the main thing that keeps me close to my dad, it something my mum does not understand.
    just last night i was told that this Friday night we are going to my mum’s cousins after wedding party (it’s a Lebo thing) FRIDAY NIGHT! PIES vs CATS!
    “No way mum i’m not going.”
    She wouldn’t budge.
    So i took my case to my dad.
    “DADDY, I CAN’T GO, PLEASE!!! i can’t miss the footy!!!”
    he understood completly and Friday night i’ll be home watching the footy.

    thankgod for Daddys!


  5. Dips,

    the late great Harry Chapin once wrote:

    “A child arrived just the other day,
    he came into the world in the usual way’
    but there were planes to catch and bills to pay
    he learned to walk while I was away………”

    If you can get a copy of his album “Living Room Suite”
    his analogy of how little girls grow – track 6 or 7 should resinate. It really is worth a listen, more than once.

    “Dr” Phantom

  6. Danni – how many cousins or cousin’s cousins do you have?? Why don’t you start a new “Lebo” thing – no weddings or wedding related parties in the footy season. It might take off.

    Dr Phantom – thanks for the reference. I’ll see if I can find it. Still working on a Tassie visit after Christmas, maybe you can play it to me then.

  7. Dips,

    You Tube – Harry Chapin Why Did The Little Girls.

    I have just listened to it. Its not high tech but its high intelligence and one of the first times I can remember a male singer to tackle the gender inequality issue with such force.

    That’s me on the banjo – I wish.

    See you at the sports.

    Philosopher Phantom

  8. Phantom – thanks just listened myself. I don’t know anything about Harry Chapin, might listen to a bit more.

    Grand Master Dips

  9. Cats in the cradle; Taxi. Good try out album is Greatest Stories Live. Also Verities and Balderdash with a song ‘What made America Famous’ dealing with bigotry is great.

    He had a cult following. One of me all time faves. Think’n Music.

  10. Dips,
    Jango has a good link to lyrics. Old Harry was a storyteller.
    Really liked your tale. Tugs the heartstrings when you’re a Dad. My 13 yr old is just splitting from me at the moment, but we have a golf weekend and some indoor soccer that keeps me attached.
    Hopefully I’ll see you for a beer Friday pre-match.

  11. Pamela Sherpa says

    Dips, Dad played footy and was a farmer but had 5 girls. But he wouldn’t have ‘swapped it for quids’ as he used to say. We adored going wiih him everywhere we could and footy has been a huge link and part of the whole family’s life.

  12. Crio, when my young bloke was about 13 I coached his school soccer team. Knew nothing about soccer. Then again in year 9 and in their last year.

    It gave me regular time with him and I had some access to his mates who all turned out to be teriffic.

    I ended up knowing all about their strengths and weeknesses. When you can select or not or sub them from the field you tent to get in close. They treated me with respect (surprisingly) and we all still have a reasonable relationship when they are into their 20’s.

    Having some knowlege of who is who in the zoo was very useful when in late adolesence the parties started. They knew that they would be benched if the team rules were broken.

    Phantom Verbeek

  13. Pamela – sport in general is a good binding agent but because Clare does gymnastics its hard to get close to what they are doing a really involved. For example I can’t sit down and discuss with her how she is executing her Yurchenko Loops, Fly springs and V – press handstands.

  14. Ian Syson says

    So Phantom, it’s blokes like you that end up with me tearing my hair out watching badly structured defences as they fail to adjust to the fact that the opposition are playing with three forwards!!

    I used to watch my boy play school soccer . . . not any more.

    School sport should be made illegal.

    Grumpy of North Carlton

  15. Pamela Sherpa says

    Dips,I’m sure your logical mind could figure out the physics of those flips. My son is a freestyle skiier and claims that I don’t understand what he does . I counter by saying I know excatly what you are doing “Ending up getting injured like a footballer!”
    I Understand what you mean about the bonds of team sport though. I used to absolutely love coaching school and town netball and basketball teams

  16. Ian,

    not this little black duck.

    We were very versatile. Always played attacking soccer. Used to set teams up with a footyish structure. We used to use the ‘Phantom’s Paddock’ a fair bit. Make changes on the run as necessary. Horses for courses stuff.

    The boys were all playing club soccer, some at senior level in the last year.

    All I did was discuss the tactics, set the team plan with them and make any necessary changes as well as do the motivational bit.

    Once I was discussing the need for heart in a pending hard game we needed to win. To emphisise the point I pulled a raw sheep’s heart from my pocket. One of the players laughed so I took a bite out of it.

    The looks on the seventeen y o faces was memorable. The parents in the sheds didn’t say a word. Next week the pre match sheds were packed.

    They won the game and won the pennant (their first) that year. We had heaps of fun.


  17. Ian Syson says

    That’s hilarious! The best post I’ve read on this site — can’t stop smiling . . .

  18. Dave Nadel says

    The trick with kids I guess is trying to share their interests rather than making them share yours. As a child of migrant parents, who didn’t understand Aussie Rules, I always dreamed of going to the footy with my Dad and figured I would someday go to the footy with my own son.

    In fact while I went regularly to the footy with both kids my son wasn’t really that interested in team sport and my best times at the footy have been with my teenage daughter who not only enjoys the game but has better understanding of the flow of the game than I did at her age. My son and I relate over books and music.

    My son was perhaps was more like his grandad. When I met my Uncle (who migrated to London rather than Melbourne) he explained that he had never been able to get his younger brother (Dad) to go to the soccer with him when they were kids in pre-War Germany. “Your Dad preferred individual sports like boxing to football.” My son prefers Karate to all codes of football.

    A word on Harry Chapin. Phantom is right, he was a great lyricist. A lot of his songs seem to be about broken dreams and missed opportunities – Taxi, WOLD, Mr Tanner. I saw him on his only tour of Australia in the late 70s. It is the ultimate irony that a man whose best song was about the lost dreams of taxi driver, died in a car crash!

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