DAD ON DECK
Father’s Day is tomorrow, and in honour of all the blokes out there doing the hard and happy yards with or without a partner, Louise Hegarty caught up with Josh Wharehinga and his tribe . . .
Josh Wharehinga is a hard man to catch. Between his role as academic advisor at Te Wananga O Aotearoa, numerous community projects, studying for even more degrees and raising six kids, I managed to pin him down in his Kaiti kitchen.
Cream bun in hand, the man was ready to chat.
He is a sole parent with five girls and one boy ranging in age from eight to 13.
“Four came from one relationship, to be honest I was a terrible partner at that time . . . there was actually a bit of a crossover with the mum of the next two. I’m not proud of it but I accept my mistakes and I’ve tried to make amends with my kids and their mum.
“Despite how terrible it may have been or it may be in the future, my children have two parents and we need to keep communicating.”
Josh is kept “pretty busy” with six kids, a job, study and meal planning.
“We get takeaway a couple of nights a week, the local Chinese. We get two family packs for $20 so that comes out at about $4 a head. I always make sure I get a good range, ya know, meat, vegies and rice.
“Every Sunday I get $60 of vegies from the vegie man and I cut them all up and put them into containers and freeze them for the week. Sometimes my girls make bacon and eggs for dinner too.
“In the morning I just throw the vegies, some meat, some sauce, seasonings and stuff into the slow cooker and it’s all done when we get home.
“For lunches, I used to prepare everything, but they didn’t eat everything so now I ask the kids what they’d like when we’re shopping and they prepare it themselves — they already know what’s allowed and what’s not. They get yogurt, fruit, crackers, cheese, noodles, that sort of stuff.”
Everybody has their responsibilities when it comes to laundry, housework and tidying up.
“My house is a mess, all the time! When we do eventually get to cleaning we tend to all do that at the same time. So if my son and I are going to mow the lawns, I’ll see what else needs to be done and we all spend some time getting things done. And everyone has different things they’re responsible for, like feeding the dog or taking out the rubbish.”
It’s not all carved in stone though, says Josh.
“There’s always a bit of give and take, we all help each other out.”
Good thing too, as a quick tally of the extra-curricular activities is pretty daunting: basketball, boxing, kapa haka, hip hop, whakairo (carving), piano lessons and touch football.
“It’s all on the phone,” says Josh, pointing to his smartphone. (And yes, it is backed up).
Having a passion for technology, Josh and the crew are pretty savvy with the techy stuff.
“We have a home network with nine devices on it. We use it mainly for social networking and education, we don’t have TV so we stream online. We are pretty much able to control our own viewing content.
“Pounamu, 11, has her own You Tube channel for her music. She has just under 45,000 views.”
As far as discipline goes, Josh leads by example, and says that as the kids are growing up there is more opportunity for communication.
“Before I had to growl, growl, growl them, now they know if they’re in trouble — we can discuss it. I try to get them to reflect on what they’ve been up to.
“We do have a house tikanga, we have karakia in the morning and the evening. Embedded in that karakia is the message of how we should go about our day.”
But Josh is the first to admit it doesn’t always run smoothly.
“If I do mess up — and I mess up a lot — I apologise and then we can both learn. It’s important for me that the kids see me try to make amends, then they also learn forgiveness and not holding on to things.
“Some days I’m an awesome dad and some days I’m a crap dad — at the end of my life I just hope the awesome days outnumber the crap days.”
Raising six kids as well as working closely with community has made Josh a bit of an unofficial support guy for dads, he says.
“Sometimes other guys ask me for advice. One guy asked me how to not get so angry at his son and I said ‘I tell myself, that he’s 12. Did you have your shit together when you were 12? ’Coz I didn’t’.
“He grinned, because he got it. It’s a simple concept; one that unfortunately took me a long time to learn and I wish I had learned it earlier. That helps me bring it down a bit and it helped him too.
“Sometimes guys ring me ’cos they’ve heard what I’m doing, sometimes people tell me about one of the bros who’s having a rough time.
“It can be really hard for single dads or dads in general, especially if they don’t live with their kids. Guys just don’t know how to get advice and don’t want to rock the boat, upset their ex etc so most of the time they don’t do anything.
“The dads need to know that they have a right to see their kids and their kids have the right to see them — that time is going by, and now is the best time to start.”
It takes more than one person to raise a child, says Josh.
“It’s not just me and my kids’ mum, but my neighbours, their schoolteachers, extended family — that’s a Maori worldview.
“People need support — it takes a community to raise a family.”
• Any dads out there who need support, please contact Tauawhi Men’s centre on 06 868 8278 or feel free to email Josh Wharehinga: josh [at] josh.org dot nz.