I loved hanging out at my mates’ houses when I was a teenager. You could demolish a whole pack of Tim Tams if they were generous and you got a raw insight into why your friends were the way they were. When you see someone’s home environment and meet their families, a lot of things just start making sense. Every family has a different way of setting the table, different opinion on who chooses the channel, and wildly different rules for backyard cricket. Here are some of the awesome ways I saw my mates’ parents handle their unique home situations.
Scott was my neighbour and we got up to lots of mischief together when we were young. I had never met someone as naughty as him before. He wasn’t just getting into trouble for being disruptive in class either – one time he got suspended from school for hitting another student with a bat. I remember when I first met Scott’s family. He lived with his mum and he had older sisters. His mum was an absolute legend raising all these kids on her own. When we were about 10 years old, she wanted to get Scott involved in a team atmosphere with good role models. Scott hated sports – unless it was hitting people with bats. Although he wasn’t a sporty guy she found a great alternative. One day she took us both to scouts. Scott loved it so much and he was really good at it. He could tie so many difficult knots – even the ‘monkey fist’. (You should Google it – it's a crazy hard knot.) At scouts he was mentored by some great leaders who helped guide him through some of those tough adolescent years. It really is true that it takes a village to raise a child. The environment at scouts made a huge difference to Scott’s behaviour at school. His mum was a genius for getting him connected in the community. What I noticed is that if you do it all by yourself you can do an okay job, but when you rely on the village, it makes a hard job that much easier.
Hillary and I were in high school when we first started hanging out. She was really passionate about Māori studies, kapahaka and she was fluent in Te Reo Māori. What really caught me off guard was going to her house and meeting her mum for the first time. Hilary’s mum is Pakeha. Hilary is Māori on her dad’s side, but she didn't get to see him much because he lived in a totally different part of the country. Her mum did an incredible job of supporting her to learn about her unique cultural identity on both sides of the whanau. I noticed that Hilary had a clear idea of where she was going because she knew where she had come from. She had strong connections to her heritage on both her mum and dad’s sides, even though her parents didn’t get on that well. I had a whole lot of respect for the way Hilary’s mum remembered the good things about Hillary's dad, not just the bad things.
I first met Tim at primary school. We had a bark war in the playground and that sealed our friendship. We were good mates, even though he went through a lot of change over the years. When we were young, his stepdad was incredibly strict and Tim would sneak around a lot and hide things he thought he would get in trouble for.
Another man moved in with his family when we were both in intermediate. The old stepdad was gone and this new guy was the complete opposite style of parent – he had no rules or boundaries at all. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, because he obviously did. I noticed that because Tim didn’t have any rules at home, he didn’t obey rules anywhere. I remember he got into trouble with the police for not wearing a bike helmet and couldn’t understand why he was even in trouble.