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Posted by Philip Patston on 12 September 2008, 4:35 pm in ,

Building bonds benefit both, say Diverse Dads

Relationship building with children was made easier by not having to fit mainstream fathering stereotypes, disabled dads and gay dads agreed in a panel discussion during Waitakere City’s Focus on Fathering Week last week.

“We are different from the start, so we don’t even try to fit in. We’re building a new architecture of parenting,” said Maori gay man Ian. He and Dutch partner of 15 years, Erik, have “whangaied” (looked after children from within the family) over 20 children from two generations with up to seven children at one time living with them.

Gay, disabled comedian Philip Patston fronted the panel, “Diverse Dads – Fathers of the Future”, which aimed to draw attention to the experience of men who may be overlooked as fathers.

When asked if they thought mainstream society believes it is harder on children to have a gay or disabled father, the panel said attitudes have changed. “I’ve never had any negative feedback,” said Rob, who broke his neck in a motor vehicle accident in 1984 and is stepfather to 2 teenage girls and father to his 2-year-old son. “In fact, people have been really supportive.”

Erik agreed. “We are very active in our school community – Ian has chaired the Board of Trustees at our local school for several years.”

Tony admitted to always being conscious of ensuring he was giving his best to his daughter. “I’m always questioning myself, asking if I can do more to be a good dad,” he said.

Jonny, father to two daughters aged 15 and 20, has cerebral palsy. “Not only am I a father, but I’m a good father,” he said. “I’m proud of my daughters – they’re great young women.”

Focus on Fathering week organiser Chris Mullins said the panel was the best-attended event of the evening. “But it’s a shame there weren’t more fathers in the audience,” he said.

Patston, who organised the panel, would like to repeat the event next year. “It would be great to extend the scope of diversity to encompass a wider variety of men and circumstances,” he said.

An audience member summed up the uniqueness of the panel perfectly at the end. “Compared to other men,” she said, “you guys are just not normal!”

More info: www.diversityworks.co.nz/diverse-dads-intro/



Philip Patston

Ph 09 376 4837

Mob/text 021 764 837

Email philip@diversityworks.co.nz

Focus on Fathering

Elaine Dyer

Project Manager

Violence Free Waitakere

Promoting Great Parenting

ph 09 4168774 or 8374849

Email elainedyer@clear.net.nz>

Chris Mullins

Mob 027 278-8335

Email wellpoint@slingshot.co.nz

AUT Research on Disabled Fathers

Marta Leete

Free Phone 0508 BEING-A-DAD (0508 234-642)

Phone: 09 921 9154

Email: mleete@aut.ac.nz