Becoming a married father at the age of 22 was a daunting challenge, one that was faced blindly and head on. We were given a date and a time for when operation parenthood would commence, and so we waited, we waited for the moment we would be sent over the top. It has been almost 3 years since my wife and I began the campaign and in that time we have dodged mines, bullets, barbed wire and as my wife is American, friendly fire too. Raising a daughter has been like navigating a battlefield, in which we have been hardened from skittish recruits to hardened veterans in our call of duty.

To my daughter Ava, I still remember I had insisted on naming my first daughter Ava, after my absolute favourite musical artists Angels And Airwaves. It was only later that I discovered Ava was actually short for spoiled, over reactive princess. Who knew the name would fit so well, right!

Being a father has certainly changed the way I look at life. Just the other day, we had got home from our trip to the shops and you were knocking on the door, as if expecting someone to answer. Your mother and I laughed and told you there was nobody home, but you paid no attention. After, your mother and I exchanged a look. “What would you do if someone answered the door right now?” she asked me. She was waiting for my response to be one of heroic bravery and self sacrifice, however, the one she got was “Nope!” I exclaimed. “I’ll be pushing Ava in crying “take the virgin” before I’m straight down the street,” I’ve changed a lot since then.

Although some sceptics will point out this was just the other day, I have found you to be rather influential. Of course, had there been a true danger lurking beyond the door, I would have jumped in whole heartedly to defend my princess from harm. This of course, ignoring everything I’d just learned from binge watching the entire series of Luther.

Being responsible for your protection is something I’ve had to embrace, when all the while my survival instincts are whispering in my ear “Hey Phil, if that lion chases us, you know we can outrun Ava, right? think about it,” However, I brush this voice aside and am prepared to take a bullet for you, like to the arm or leg, you know just a ricochet or a graze, something your mother’s love of Band-Aids will fix.

How to put someone before myself is a lesson you’ve most definitely taught me, and looking back over the years there is a whole trail of breadcrumbs, each one something new you have brought to my character and my mind. Before you came along I thought I had everything figured out, but you showed me the light. Whilst watching Free Willy together, you showed me how inexcusably implausible the ending of the movie was, tarnishing one of my happiest childhood memories.

Subjecting me to an endless cycle of Disney movies old and new, you opened my eyes to every lie they ever told me, from being able to break open a watermelon by cracking it on my knee, to a spoonful  of sugar helping the medicine go down, it does not! With your love of Disney movies, comes your love for singing and dancing to the songs that fill them. This has in turn introduced many new changes within myself. Any recollection I once had of the Pythagoras Theorem, Newton’s three laws and being able to dance like a respectable human being, have been replaced by the lyrics of “Let it go” “Love is an open door” and the completely rhythm less fumbles of a dad at the school disco. You dance/jump around the room, shouting along to the clear words at the end of each song line, while you have me up on my feet, shaking my tail feather like Nicki Minaj with Cerebral Palsy.

Your mother has often criticised me for my lack of emotions. I have two, one of which I show when I’m hungry and the other is the one that she taught me. It is my theory that you know exactly where these two emotions intersect, as you love nothing more than to walk the tight rope between them, the twinkle in your eye betraying any kind of poker face you think you have. You are to my OCD what Donald Trump is to America, and yet I just want to love you. As much as you cry “No” or for me to put you down, I just want to hold you tight, and if pop culture has taught me anything, it’s all your fault for being so damn cute.

You have me on the floor playing games whenever the opportunity arises, which is mostly between you finishing your food and me being able to start on mine. You are responsible for my Kate Moss like figure and dependency on caffeine products, as we let our imaginations run wild. We are Dinosaurs, we are Pirates, and as we sing Bing Bong’s song from Inside Out, I look forward to the day we fly to the moon.

It is in these moments that nothing else matters.

I have become an adult in the sense I will always provide you with everything you need, and when you flash me your pearly whites and pretend you have manners, I provide you with everything you want as well. I have learned to put your own happiness before my own and have had my childhood ruined in the process, all because of a thing called Logic.

You could say that you have caused me to grow up, become a mature adult, no more inner child. But I call Bullshit. Having you as my daughter, not only have I become a responsible father, I have also become your protector, your big brother, your best friend, and it is with all my heart, I hope I’ve also become your first love.