Wanna be a winning dad?
There’s now a manual for that, thanks to Symon Jarowyj.
It didn’t take long for Symon Jarowyj to realise he didn’t feature high on his daughter’s popularity list.
Despite being primary nappy changer during the first six weeks of Neko’s life during his partner Natalie’s recovery from a caesarean, the Grace Emily pub part-owner soon learnt that when it comes to a kid’s priorities, it’s 1) mum, and then 2) everyone else.
“When Neko was about two I started realising that whenever my mum or mother-in-law would come over, she’d show a lot more excitement than when I came home from work,” Symon explains.
“I was getting a bit jealous and thinking, I’m not even in the top two in popularity anymore! So I started jotting down ideas of ways I could make things around the house more fun for her so she’d think I was a bit less boring. Like if I was doing the washing, I’d be smelling every item of clothing as she passed it to me and saying ‘pooo!’ to her in a really high voice and pulling a funny face or whatever, just to get a giggle.”
As Symon’s list grew, chats with punters over the bar revealed more stark lessons all dads must learn in their little ones’ first years of life.
The way your car requires a transformation into a fully-equipped baby supply vehicle. How daunting it is to wrap a baby for the first time when bringing them home from hospital. The fact that baby poo, at least initially, isn’t even that bad relative to its reputation.
“I started thinking all these things would actually make a pretty funny little book,” Symon says.
“Something for other dads to have so they can prepare for what’s coming, you know?”
Symon talked the idea through with pub regular and mate, Josh Fanning – publisher of quarterly Adelaide magazine, CityMag – and he was soon onboard.
“I liked the idea of a manual that was illustrated to look like an airport emergency landing card – something small and tongue-in-cheek, but something half-serious that identified those areas for dads on how they could do a better job,” Symon says.
“Every dad book on the market tends to be 150-plus pages and it’s all good info, but I guess the majority of dads probably don’t really have the attention span. I just wanted something short and sharp that got dads thinking about how you can help out at home and the little things you need to do like cleaning the nest. I never knew about that stuff until my partner told me – like, ‘See this dust? I want it gone’. And you realise that if you clean the nest without your partner asking you, you’re gonna impress them, and she’s gonna think you’re up for the challenge and on the same page as her.”
The final piece of the puzzle came last year when Josh introduced Symon to Adelaide illustrator Owen Lindsay, and The Winning Dad Manual was born.
“I’d sort of give him an idea of what I wanted, but then Owen’s very clever at adding his own little jokes,” Symon says.
“And because he doesn’t have kids he’s very good at giving that single man perspective. He did a cracking job.”
Despite the book being a neat 51 pages and relatively light on text, The Winning Dad Manual manages to cram advice to cover all the important periods, from pre-game nerves, to infancy and to toddling.
Perhaps more impressively though, it delivers really practical advice with a remarkable strike-rate of genuine lols (the diagrams of a child’s developing brain, for example, are on-point).
While Symon doesn’t envisage too many men buying the book for themselves, he instead sees it as the perfect gift for any soon-to-be dad before they’re about to embark on their new adventure.
And with daughter Neko having just turned four (and with another baby on the way), he’s clearly an authority on the perilous 0-3 age bracket.
Now he’s just got to master the next three years.
“We’re gonna do another one for ages three-to-six, so every three years there’ll be an updated manual,” Symon says.