we plan to have a selection of guest columnists on an ongoing basis.
some will talk to their specialities, but we encourage guests to also step outside their normal room.
here is the first of these; nandor talking on the delights of fatherhood.
It took the birth of my daughter, at the age of 37, to turn me from a boy into a man.
Western Industrial society does not mark life’s passages well. There are, for most of us, no rituals to celebrate the move from childhood into youth. As a result we face our confusion and disorientation alone and unheralded.
The end of adolescence is not much better. Far from demonstrating manhood, sculling a yard at a twenty first proves simply that we are still boys. Has patriarchy so stunted male development that we are struggling to understand what being a man really means?
It seems pathetic that at the age of 36 I still felt like a boy. It took the birth of my baby daughter to change that.
I watched my daughter grow inside the whare tangata. I spoke to her, rubbed her little feet, her nono, or whatever it was bumping at my hand. I sang to her and told her of my dreams for her. I looked after her by looking after her mother: massaging her back and feet, soothing her erratic emotions and fetching midnight snacks.
My manhood was not forged under gunfire or in the face of death, but in the face of life. It was the quiet, steady courage of loving another.
The revelation of my daughters birth was that I am not the centre of the world – not even my own. As a boy, no matter how considerate I might be, I was centre stage. As a man I don’t need to be. Its a beautiful thing to just be there to support my beloved to grow our baby, and to support our child.
If nurturing is a crucial part of manhood, and in my opinion it is, it is a nurturing that is particular to men. I find a particular pride in being able to sooth our baby sometimes when her mother can’t. It’s not competitive, just that I have my own relationship with our baby, same as mama does. It means I can take over, despite my lack of breasts (or perhaps because of it).
It also makes me aware of the incredible stress that single parents must be under. My full respect to all those single parents raising their children, and a big finger to all the people who make their job harder with DPB bashing and negative attitudes.
Birth is hard. One of the greatest things men can do is be solid. We watch our partners enduring an emotional roller coaster that is as disturbing and confusing to them as to us. We watch morning (all-day) sickness, unprovoked tears, fear and pain, and post-natal depression. We watch them give birth.
Our gift is to let go of our ego and be clear and solid. To let the feelings wash over us, to listen without judgement, to reassure, to be confident in ourselves and our partners, to be solid and steady and dependable. If she is buffetted like a kite, we can be the string that grounds her.
It would be easy to be overwhelmed. To run away in a panic of our own. It is a sad thing that so many of our brother do that – run out on their families, and run away from their manhood.