I’ve always been a good dad. I’m good at dad shit. Being creative, making messes, playing, disciplining, planning, working hard, protecting. I wanted to fill in the gaps that I didn’t get. So I focussed strongly on individualised pathways of learning for my children, to support and affirm their dreams. We all have shit days, but I can hand-on-heart say that my good days outnumber my shit days.
I’ve never really called myself ‘the mum’ of my household. I’ve always been dad. But I knew having so many girls that I’d have to get up to play on the motherly stuff. I didn’t know this from the start tho. This post is about my journey to that place of knowing.
I tried to raise my girls as boys. haha. I made them do boxing, mma etc. Dressed them in functional clothing mostly, which is SUCH a male thing to do! Just whatever I could get on them really. My girls would return from daycare with their hair did, with maybe ribbons in their hair, some colour on their faces or a pretty shirt. Coz I had sent them to daycare in a singlet, gumboots, shorts and a tutu; and we all know that is so not cool!
But I learnt.
I wasn’t good at the whole ‘hugging and nurturing’ thing while my kids were growing up. I was treated harshly growing up. The best I got from my males was stoicism. Hugging and nurturing came from my mum, not from my males. So, I was always very stern and I wasn’t very huggy. In reflection, I’m SO disappointed about myself because of that.
When I got like that I had female friends that would tell me to ‘calm my farm’ or would try to insulate the girls from my male harshness. Motherly-like friends. They would step in when there were mother-daughter things on, or those groups would allow me to participate as mum instead. That was the only time anything ever broke my heart. Watching my girls look at the other girls with their mums… 😞💔
But I learnt again.
When Pou was about 9, I really reflected on what kind of parent I was. Who I had learnt from. What I liked about what I learnt. What I didn’t like. Where my gaps were. Who could help fill them. Where my strengths were. How I could best use them.
My biggest weakness is that I was not female. I didn’t know the practicalities of periods, or what cramps ACTUALLY feel like. But my biggest strength was that I was willing to learn and was humble enough to step aside for those who knew more than me.
I started to surround my teens with female role models. My requirement was that they had to be NZers and had to be brown. I wanted my girls to see themselves in the people I was presenting to them. So we started in music with Maisey Rika, Aaradhna, Ria Hall. Then we branched out to kapa haka with Tangiwai Ria, Pimia Wehi, then made it real for them by including Haley Maxwell, Tahea Gibson and Ora Taukamo (coz they were all taking Waikirikiri kapa haka).
Then we cut across to the political spectrum with Makareti, Metiria Turei then added people they could know like Tina Ngata, Meredith Akuhata-Brown, Dayle Takitimu and Marama Davidson.
During this time I was reading my ass off. I read Te Awa Atua, Te Awa Tapu, Te Awa Wahine by Ngahuia Murphy. I read physiological books on menstrual cycles. I read TRADITIONAL MAORI PARENTING: An Historical Review of Literature of Traditional Maori Child Rearing Practices in Pre – European Times by Te Mana Kahui Ririki.
So, we had ALL of this awesome wahine based info and every night we would korero about the different topics above. Something we still do today. Whakawhiti kōrero has played a huge part in where we are as a family. The above were all topics we would talk about.
We had honest conversations about sex. Having been a horny teenage male, I told them what I was like and what the typical teenage boy is probably still like. We spoke about what their first times will probably be like. That it is SO not like what you see on the movies, to start off with, but that you don’t have sex for the first time coz you want it to look like on the movies. Your first time, for wahine is deeper than that.
In order to have the convo I had to get the fuck over myself. This is for the dads 1) The whole ‘I’m gonna get a gun for when these boys come around’ is bullshit. It’s hypocritical as fuck too. Coz WE were those boys once upon a time. Don’t try and chase them away, prepare your girls for the boys that YOU were. My girls ARE the gun, bruh! 2) Our daughters bodies belong to them. What they do with them is their business. We can just help inform them as much as we can and cross our fingers.
We had honest conversations about when their first periods would happen. I had the PRIVILEGE of having so many wahine friends offer to contribute to this kaupapa for my babies. It’s quite hardcase coz I had the DREAM TEAM on standby, one friend to korero as a wahine about the atua link of the īkura, one to korero about the practicalities of periods, etc etc. The one thing I didn’t do was actually know what I should be buying. So I had to get my trusted sidekick Haze to come with me to Pak n Save to go get pads and explain what ones did what and the ratio of overnight pads, to heavy pads, to regular pads that I should always have in stock. haha. Crack up. Have the dream team available and don’t even have fricken pads at home. Winning.
Anyway, the point of this post is my girls are women today because of ALL the women that leant a hand, that saw a struggling dad and helped out, that helped me learn more about myself, that were great examples I could point to for my girls to try to emulate, take examples and learn lessons from.
To my children, it’s been my privilege to be your parent. To my girls, doing mum stuff with yous has made me a better dad. Saved me.
To those women who were there, whether you knew it or not, Happy Mothers Day wāhine mā. I’m so grateful.