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It takes a village to raise a parent

June 17, 2015

Father’s Day is upon us again. A time for dads to reflect on their role in their children’s lives. The shift from being a spouse or partner or just a bloke playing rugby to being a dad is one of the biggest in a man’s life.

For me, it happened 12 years ago here in our little place in North Bondi, Sydney, Australia. The same place gDiapers was born. Like all parents, that moment was pretty surreal. Life had just been created – in our living room no less. I was staring into the eyes of my son asking many questions: “How did that just happen?” “Who is this tiny soul in my hands?” “Will he like Vegemite?” 

From that day on, everything changed. The process of shedding the old and finding the new wasn’t an easy one. It required searching for wisdom from those who had gone before. My own dad, who calmly enjoyed a cappuccino and the Sydney Morning Herald while Kim laboured away, was a surprisingly important source in a subconscious way. He offered, in a variety of subtle ways, critical role modelling about what it was to be a compassionate, caring father. In those early days, weeks and months, I would rifle back through my memory and ask, “What did Dad do?” He showed an overarching way to be around kids that guided me deeply.

A few of my mates from school had started dad-hood earlier than me and they too provided a bit of road map. If nothing else, I saw that life was fundamentally different with little ones around and that was a good thing. Trivia night at the pub on a Thursday night was probably going to be put on hold for 10 or so years and that was OK. They made that move feel “normal.”

New people emerged at that time who also provided guidance. I would tuck Fynn into the Hugabub (a wraparound baby carrier) every morning from about 4.30am to 8.00am and walk up and down the beach to give Kim a chance to catch up on sleep. I would say hello to the same people each morning rain, hail or shine and have a quick chat. They would marvel at Fynn’s cute head and then watch over time as he did the manoeuvre from facing inwards, asleep, to facing outward and seeing the world around him. In all these thousands of interactions with older mums, dads, grandparents, the lifeguards, the barista, and a few ex-colleagues from the school I used to teach at, hints and tips were gleaned about what it was to be a dad at one’s best. It was cumulative handing down of knowledge from a broad community.

Remarkably, 12 years on and after a 10-year absence living in the US, many of those same faces are still down at the beach. These are my tribe of elders. I intend to re-engage with them to see what pearls of wisdom they can offer as the boys head off into adolescence.

Your tribe can come from anywhere really. It is a little trial and error but ultimately we all find our own unique path to fatherhood.


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