Booze, Bikes And Babes
By Harald Breiding-Buss
Lured to gangs by the certainty of daily adrenalin highs, and living a life he thought was carefree, Dan Goodman already had two children by the time he was 19. Harald Breiding-Buss talked to him as he and his life settle down – with yet another kid.
Hooning on Harleys, every weekend on the piss, a couple of burglaries to round off the week for the mates back at the gang -that was Dan Goodman at 16, following in the footsteps of his older brother and some of his mates.
“I thought getting involved with a gang was really cool”.
When he got involved with his first burglary, it was for the excitement of it, not for any money. “I didn’t want to get I anything out of it for myself’, he remembers. “It was pretty much like my mates said we’re going to break into that house there now, are you with us. That was quite an adrenalin rush to do it.”
It wasn’t long and he got a pregnant. And yes, he thought about “doing the bolt”, to avoid the situation somehow. Not yet 17 when Jess arrived, he didn’t think he was responsible enough and he felt totally tied down, severely restricted in the carefree life he wanted to have. But neither did he want to let the kid down.
At the time, Dan was on the dole, living in the South Canterbury city of Timaru, and his girl lived yet another fifty or so kilometres south, in Temuka. He didn’t think she was the ‘right’ girl for a long-term relationship, but nevertheless he travelled down to Temuka two or three times a week with his own job there.
He spent the day there, sometimes staying over, but it would have been hard for them financially to move together. The 1)PB pays better than a teenage lad.
Still, the couple moved in together eventually, and ban got a job.
He never felt really easy in that relationship, and still, he was ruled by incredible carelessness. By 19 he was a dad once more, a boy this time, Curtis.
Why on earth, I asked him, after his experiences with the first child, his feelings of being tied down and overwhelmed by responsibility, did he have another one? He shrugs, not really knowing how to answer this.
Unlike with Jess, he was there this time when his child was born. “That was really cool”, he says.”I was really excited, it was a great moment.” But by that time they no longer lived together and didn’t get on too well.
“That was really at the tail end of our relationship”, he says about Curtis’ birth. But he kept commuting between Timaru and Temuka, “always for the kids; definitely for the kids”, not for the relationship with their mother.
That he believed he had something to give to his kids as a dad beyond money (his contribution was rather meagre in those days, anyway) and support for the children’s mother is a remarkable insight for a young man.
A 1999 survey by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner about New Zealander’s attitudes to fatherhood showed that young people under 20 were the ones who thought the most of parenthood in ‘traditional’ terms: mother gives care, father gives money and protection; even more so than the over 65’s! Add to that Dan’s background of gangs and proven sexual carelessness, and it is hard not to be amazed by his persistence in being as good a dad as he felt he could be.
“I did heaps of things with them”, he says. “Taking them to the playground, taking them for walks, stuff like that.”
Did he know others? “My brother had a 3 year old [at the time Jess was born), which was good. He ended up as a single dad.” Most of his gang mates also had kids. “Some of them didn’t care, but others were pretty much in the same situation like me.
And they weren’t any older.” Gangs as father support groups. And what about his parents? Dan’s career seemed like a nightmare come true for your average suburban household. Did they know what he was up to? “They knew. They felt I’m old enough and loosened their reins. They couldn’t have done much anyway, even if they wanted to.”
Now 24 years old, Dan has many regrets about those days, especially about his gang involvement. Two Years after his second was born he left Timaru for Christchurch. “I had to get away from those guys” he says. He was in danger of slipping away into a life of crime and booze.
But his regrets extend only partly to his children: “It’s a fine line. I love my kids. But I would have preferred to have them later in life. It’s not fair for them that they are missing out on me, because I’m not around. There’s heaps of things I would have done different if I could start over again.”
His contact now is restricted to seeing them only a few times per year, which bothers him a lot, even though he phones regularly. Because he never lived with Curtis, he feels a stronger bond to his daughter, Jess.
Shortly after he had moved to Christchurch he met Chuckle, and they have been in a relationship for three years. By the time you read this, Dan will be a father for the third time at an age, where most of us only start to think about having our first.
But this time he feels he’s got it right and he learned from his experiences. “I’m absolutely stoked about this one”, he says, “I’m much better prepared and my career is on track, which is important to me.”