We team up with Don Rowe to give you the latest on Fatherhood with Peter Wolfkamp.
Who’s in your family? Tell me a little bit about Joseph’s personality?
Our family is Deb, my wife, and our son Joseph. He is going to be ten in a couple of months time. He is an interesting character in the sense that he will often look to both sides of the family for influence, and there is certainly a little bit of me in there, and there is a lot of his mum. Personality wise, Joseph enjoys the theatrical side of things, which despite the fact I work in television, it comes more from his mother’s side of the family. While there is a real outwards side, there is a compassionate and caring streak to him as well. He really loves his art and creativity, and a real engagement with song, dance and expressing himself.
I read on your blog that you were putting in your kitchen on the day your son was born. What were you doing on the tools on this important day!?
Yes, you are right. As it happens, a typical builder's house, we are always renovating, and it always the last job on my list. When we found out that we were going to have a child the shabby old kitchen we had needed to come out. Turns out with one delay and another, on the day after he was born I went home, ripped out the old kitchen, and thankfully we managed to extend our stay in hospital a few extra days so I could get the new kitchen in, and to be honest I was almost as nervous about bringing home the newborn, as I was about whether Deb would like the new kitchen I put in as well.
What were your emotions when you became a dad?
Sometimes it is an overwhelming day, dads can sit around and stand around and feel a little bit helpless, there isn’t a lot at that late stage that we can do, bar hopefully be supportive and encouraging and be there. To watch the process, to be there, to cut the cord, it is beyond words.
The art of DIY appears to be a skill that is being lost with each generation. Have you passed on your skills to Joseph? Is it something you two enjoy doing together?
He does show an aptitude, there is a natural ability to think about processes and put them in place. He will come up with a concept then we will go in and make it in my shed. A couple of years ago we thought about making a trolley, we had a little one and thought about making one better. It ended up growing into a Santa sleigh. He came up with the design, we built it together, he painted it with a couple of his mates. He’s got to be one of the only kids around with a Santa sleigh as his trolley. With the Maui movie that came out recently he really wanted to make one of those catamarans, so we went and found some scraps of timber and made it.
Having picked up the tools at age one, you’re the archetypal Kiwi lad, the personification of our famous number 8 wire attitude. But our country has changed a lot, when you watch the world Joseph is growing up, how is the way you’re raising him different from your childhood?
Yes the country has changed a lot, and when I watch the world Joseph is growing up in, how is it different raising him, from my own childhood? I think it is different that we have one child. He has very much grown up in an adult world where everyone in the house is an adult, and I think that does make a change. He is more likely to be involved in discussions about what happens in the house, around planning, to being aware of discussions that we might have on some really adult topics. It is about talking more openly, and allowing him to express himself a little bit more, and that notion that within certain degrees you can determine what you want to do and how you want to do it. I think both Deb and I want to encourage Joseph to be more responsible, we want to encourage him to be self reliant and in that sense give him some ability to make his own decisions and recognise the consequences really early on. So in that way I think we are really open and engaging perhaps more than our parents generation were. Given both Deb and I were older parents, and have ourselves older parents, it is quite a different way of growing up now than when I was his age.
Your career is built around giving advice to homeowners and DIY Kiwis, what would your advice be to new dads?
In one of those events not long after Joseph was born my wife had to go back into hospital for surgery, which meant I was left with a 14 day old baby. While that was terrifying it was also tremendously enabling. Suddenly there was me. Dads are often a bit reluctant to get engaged early stage. Small babies they seem really fragile, plus you doubt if your doing the right thing, all the things that new mothers are going through. However us dad’s in particular can tend to hold back a little bit. I didn’t have a choice, my wife was in hospital, I was at home with a newborn baby. It was “time to put your big boy pants on and let's do this”, because I was the only one. Those four or five days at home with Joseph, I can now look back at that time and think it was the most significant moment we had together in those early years. So come Dads, do the messy stuff, be active, spend lots of time with the little one, maybe even take a bit of time off your work.
Take responsibility, it’s easy for Dads to hand it over to the mother. Do it yourself and you will reap the rewards. It was certainly a very memorable time for me.