A Bloke on the Wharf

by Kevin Gill (6 May 2006)

Is fatherlessness a problem in New Zealand?

I went fishing recently and ended up with tears in my eyes. No, it wasn’t a stray hook in a finger or a slip of a blunt kitchen knife. It wasn’t even the tale of the “one that got away” nor did I slip into the sea. I went home exhausted and cried for the kids in my community. For most of the 4 hours there, on this showery Tuesday of the school holidays - I was the only dad present.

There were 10 to 15 people (mostly kids) on the wharf this day. I was taking a 13 year old that I mentor, for a day out. I’m not a keen fisherman but I know the basics, so I soon found myself doing all the “Dad” stuff with many of the kids present.

“Could you tie this?” or “Can you help me do that?” “Did you see that one?” “Look what I caught!”. At one stage I was tying on a hook for one lad, listening to tales of “the one that got away” by another and had a tap on the shoulder for advice by another…This was my recreation and joy for the day.

There were three women present; huddled in a corner and talking about their respective “husband” problems. While not invited into the adult discussion, I think I was appreciated for keeping the kids out of their hair.

I was upset, however, for what is becoming a general trend in our communities across the country. The trend is – fatherlessness.

Fatherlessness is a growing problem in New Zealand that is sneaking up on us and beginning to cause widespread problems; an American study (Rex McCann On their own: Boys growing up underfathered (Finch Publishing), Sydney, 2000, page 47, 48) shows that Boys from a fatherless home are:

Award finalist “Raising Boys without Men” by Peggy Drexler (Rodale Books) raises many points that will be familiar to Nelson residents, missing dads may well be causing:

Girls too are showing signs of an “absent dads syndrome”; Psychologist Bruce Ellis of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch recently released a report indicating that girls are becoming sexually active younger and more likely to become pregnant in their teens.

If we continue to denigrate men, continue to blame men for all that seems wrong in the world, if we continue to alienate men from family type community groups and pre-school teaching, if we continue to accept rules like “no men sitting with unaccompanied children on planes”, then keep watching as our social problems rise.

So, next time I take a kid fishing, It’ll be my hope to see other dad’s there too - but if not, I'll proudly continue the role that my dad showed me.

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