I want to preface this with a solid statement; I think I am qualified to speak on almost all facets involved in this case, more so than 90% of people in Aotearoa. I have been both respondent and applicant in family court matters. I have been taken to family court and had to take others to family court. I have full custody of four children and have contact with my other two children, meaning I have both parenting arrangements where my kids go visit their parent and another set of kids come visit me. I am intimately aware of both sides of the family court. I also have an extensive background in education. I have taught at three levels of education, primary, secondary and tertiary. I have children at both kura kaupapa and mainstream institutions. I didn’t grow up in a kaupapa Māori environment and have spent the vast majority of my adult life working to know what being a hapu and iwi member is. I am qualified.
The only thing that would make me more qualified to speak on this would be having the specific dialogue between the two parents.
All these things afford me some luxuries that most commenters don’t have, specifically the luxury of knowing what I’m actually talking about.
For the uninitiated, the Family Court recently made a ruling to remove a child from a kura kaupapa (Māori total immersion school) and ruled that the child needed to go to a school that is not total immersion. You can find the link at the end of the article if you want to watch them.
At face value this is everything Māori have come to expect from our court systems. A pakeha father goes to a court that has trodden on Māori since it’s establishment and it takes a Māori child out of her kura.
And everyone cries racism. “The courts are racist!” Yeah they are. The court continually prosecutes Māori with more severe sentences than non-Māori for equivalent crimes. But that’s not the main issue. The main issue isn’t a racist father, it isn’t a racist court, the main issue is that the father was not included in the decision regarding schooling. That’s it. A father has the the right to be included in their decisions for their children.
You strip away everything else from a child’s life and the MOST important thing for a child is their relationship with their parents. That’s the MOST important thing. Not their god, not their education, not their school, not their kura, not their culture. Their parents.
Of all the concerns expressed by the dad the most important one was that their child was enrolled without his knowledge or consent. And notably this was the only one that had no response in the news clip.
“But kura/culture is what is in the best interest of the child!” the commenters say. Really? You think the school your own child goes to is more important than your own relationship with your child? I don’t think you believe that and if you do I really think you need to reconsider your parenting. My issue with this line of reasoning is it negates the fact that the child is also not Māori and has a non Māori parent. Whakapapa is important and is only relevant in it’s entirety, don’t be selective about it.
Father’s have been getting the wet and dirty end of the shit stick called ‘the family court process’ for a very long time now. The family court system sucks for Dads. If you’re not present for the birth then you are not automatically a guardian to your child. “Sorry father, you were away studying/working we’re going to reward you with less rights to your child and if you want those rights you need to go through a family court process in order to get them.” Family courts have always been a nightmare for dads. Slow. Expensive. Demoralising. Always finding in favour against us. This is why dad’s give up most of the time. I know this because I talk to a lot of dads who are going through the court process. Some have decided to give up part way through because the time, effort and money is so high. A lot of people then assume that dad’s don’t care, but dad’s really do care, a lot! It’s just that dad’s start viewing the process as less about asserting their rights and start rationalising whether spending all that time, effort and money to upset their ex is really worth it. With 100% clarity and objectivity we all know it is worth it, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s a different story, I know exactly what it’s like, I’ve been there multiple times.
That’s why I was gobsmacked that a decision was made that ruled in favour of a father’s rights. I applaud it.
Do I think the Dad’s being selfish? Hell. Yes. But as the dad, he’s allowed to be. Yes, the daughter did say she preferred to stay at kura. Yes, the dad is a dick for not honouring that. A big fat throbbing phallus. But a phallus with parental rights. It’s not against the law to be a selfish dick phallus.
He could’ve been more proactive and engaged in his daughters world. Learned the reo. Enrolled in tikanga class at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Maybe he had tried? I dunno. The news clip doesn’t go into that.
If I was in his shoes, I definitely would have engaged in my daughters world. I have done that! One of my babies is interested in singing, One of my babies is interested in basketball. I try to engage in those worlds. For them and for me.
I hope this baby can go back to kura in a way that has both parents involved in the decision making WITHOUT the decision being made at the high court. I think that will be best for everyone.
Which brings me to my last point; separated parents, particularly parents who have day to day care, stop thinking that you know everything about your child, stop acting like only your point of view is valid. Too often parents make decisions for their children without the other parent included. Maybe it’s for speed, maybe it’s because they can’t be bothered, may be he’s an asshole, may be she’s a bitch, maybe you just wanna get back at him/her. Well fucken adult up. Once upon a time you could be bothered. Once upon a time you loved that asshole/bitch. Once upon a time you would’ve crossed oceans for them. You loved them enough to make a child with them and that child now belongs to both of you, equally. AND that child probably LOVES you both, equally. Honour that love. Realise that the decision that will be made won’t entirely satisfy either of you but make the decision together anyway.