Fathers Day

If being a bloke can be tricky in the new millennium – then being a Dad at times must feel like mission impossible. Before I get angry emails from women who are juggling 2 jobs, teleporting themselves between ballet and soccer and still manage to make something vaguely edible in 20 minutes – I have a hunch that on Sunday morning in Canterbury the bloke in the house would still have been the one who was handed the shovel. I know it’s sexist and someone doing a PHD in post feminist studies at Vic will say I’m part of some 50’s retro backlash but being a Dad in 2010 requires skills which I suspect might extend our evolutionary pace. Blokes have to be ‘positive male role models’ to their kids but once you’ve taken away the heavy drinking and rugby, standard positive role modelling only a few generations ago - most blokes are not too keen to play dress ups or tiddly winks with their offspring. In my father’s case – this left him with water activities. In some warped homophobic bid to prevent any ‘gayness’ in my brother – some of Dad’s fishing trips took on an epic scale of ‘70’s machismo in which I, being a girl, was always an unwitting tag along. The time that Dad thought it necessary for my brother, age 8, to water-ski over the Matarangi Bar – a harbour opening which has lost countless hobby boats and 2 commercial fishing vessels was a case in point. To begin his run at the channel with the words yelled over a screaming engine; ‘Don’t fall in! I can’t come back and get you’, was particularly harsh rather than character building as it was also the summer that the movie ‘Jaws’ came out, yet Dad still recalls this as a special ‘quality time’ moment because it was really fun for him. Dads now – the ones that have stuck around and are doing their best to raise good kids, pay the mortgage, support their partner’s careers and find out what manscaping is, are also expected to make a Lego dinosaur before dinner and teach their kids all the names of the bones. Dads can now attend parenting courses to help their daughters gain confidence and be assertive in the world. My own Dad achieved the same result in a far less time consuming or expensive manner. As a teenager I babysat for a bloke down the road who was known as a bit of a hard man and when he refused to pay me I was too shy to insist but made the mistake of mentioning this to Dad. He thought it important I go and ask him again and learn how to negotiate pay in a reasonable and mature fashion. I screwed up the courage and went and asked for the money and was amazed that he gave me almost double what I was owed. So easy. “Astounding” said Dad nonchalantly when I told him the news. Over 20 years later, out fishing with Dad, and remembering how much confidence this one small success had given me I learnt that it was not due to my powerful negotiating technique but more to the fact that Dad had gone round to his house and threatened to give him a hiding the night before if he didn’t cough up. There was no ‘parenting style’ then it was all just raw instinct. These days Generation X Dads are expected to share a cappuccino with their teenage daughters and new boyfriends and rationally discuss their plans to move in together. In the good old days they could wait patiently until the boyfriend left the premises and then hunt him down on a back road. The conversation could then go as follows: “Hey You.” Ya? “Gotta job?” “Nope.” “Then bugger off.” So enviably easy. Bad and Mad Dads get a bit of a bumcrack rap in the press – but lets face it – being a good Dad in today’s world is a really tough job so Happy Belated Fathers Day all you great dads out there – especially if you’re in Canterbury and spent the day on the end of a shovel.

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