SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL
First in the hot seat for our new dad’s quiz is Wallace Chapman
Q When did you become a dad and how’s it going so far?
A I became a dad on October 5th, 2017 by my wife Tabitha’s bedside at Waitakere Hospital. How is it going? I thought The Lord of the Rings trilogy was an epic journey. Nothing compared to having a new baby. It’s going great.
Q Your son has the same name as you. Quite unusual in this day and age?
A Yes, when people ask, “What’s your son’s name, Wallace?” and I say, “Wallace” – there’s a bit of a double take. You see them thinking, “O… kaaay… !” But he’s actually Wallace the Third. My father is Wallace also. Dad was from Fiji, and often in Island households, the firstborn takes the dad’s name. Tabitha suggested it, and the idea slowly grew on us. I’ll often call him “Junior” as I was called.
Q You became a dad relatively late in life. Was it a shock?
A Yes, it’s fair to say I came late to the party, becoming a father at 48. To be fair I’ve had a few health issues of my own in my 20s and 30s, so the thought of raising a child was initially apprehensive to me. Of course, that was before I met Tabitha!
Q How has becoming a dad changed you?
A Well, I’m going to be really honest and say it has and it hasn’t. People will often say you never experience real empathy and love until you have a child. I don’t believe that. All people are capable of experiencing both – those who have children and those who don’t. What has changed in me? That feeling of walking in the door after work, to the biggest smile from your own little son. That really is priceless.
Q Were you at the birth and did you help?
A Yes, I was there, and yes I was right IN there. I was definitely no innocent bystander to be sure! In the final moments Tabitha and our midwife needed extra hands on deck for the final push. I was honoured and humbled to be there.
Q Did you read any parenting books before Wallace Jnr arrived – or since?
A No, not really. I mean, we went to antenatal classes. And I read up on pamphlets. The baby’s record book has great and essential info, but we sort of steered clear of baby books and websites – for no particular reason. (Tabitha has just reminded me that we did refer to The Baby Whisperer [by Tracy Hogg] when we were having sleep issues).
Q How was the first six months of Wallace Jnr’s life? How involved were you in the nittygritty of daily care?
A I’d like to think I was involved – there were a couple of moments where Tabitha suggested I step up with duties. Maybe that’s me, maybe it’s being a guy – but there were times where I suppose I just assumed things would happen. But I really tried. For those first weeks and months, I took care of all food duties, for example – I always ensured that Tabitha had the sustenance she required through the early days and weeks.
Q How did you cope with sleep deprivation?
A Ha! Well it’s never easy, is it? The sleeplessness is intense for all. On a personal level, it never really bothered me too much. I nap very easily, so if I had 30 minutes here, 10 minutes there, that is all I would need.
Q As a couple, do you have much family support?
A We have no family support. Tabitha was brought up by her grandparents and they
“I’d like to think I was involved – there were a couple of moments where Tabitha suggested I step up with duties. Maybe that’s me, maybe it’s being a guy – but there were times where I suppose I just assumed things would happen. But I really tried.”
have both passed away, and my mother is in another town, and has had health issues. But Waterview has been a village to us in a way. There is a wonderful woman who lives three doors down called Deanne – a nurse of 55 years – who is extraordinary with babies. She is a true baby whisperer.
Q How did you decide who does what between you and Tabitha? Was it something you discussed prior to Wallace Jnr’s birth?
A We haven’t really discussed this, but the way it generally pans out is that I will do food and kitchen duties, vacuum in the weekends, read to Wallace in the evenings, whilst Tabitha will often change the nappies, take Junior to activities in the day, feed him his little meals, that sort of thing. And as time goes on, duties will cross over.
Q Have things gone according to plan in that regard?
A Seven months in it seems to work. We haven’t had any heart-to-heart talks about it, or any arguments. But we are pretty good at sitting down and discussing if things need to change.
Q Is Tabitha going back to work and will you be able to do any of the day-to-day care?
A Tabitha is going back to work after one year, yes. She is a huge believer in her work life, but our issue right now is she just doesn’t know how she will cope with not seeing her little man for the whole day, every day! I didn’t realise what women go through when faced with returning to work. It’s going to be extremely tough at first. I dread that first day to be honest. I will try and head into work a little later two days a week, to be able to spend some activity-time with Wallace Jnr.
Q You lost your own father (Wallace Snr) at quite a young age. What sort of dad was he and what influence has he had on you?
A Dad was the best role model I could ever hope for. Life wasn’t easy. Money was tight. I don’t think we ever went out for a restaurant meal as a family. I mean, literally! The beach maybe. A picnic. But there WAS lots of love. And support. If I had a school play? I’d look out into the audience, and Dad would be there.
Q Your dad was Fijian. Were any cultural factors at play in his fathering style?
A Well, Wallace Snr wanted to break the mould in a couple of ways. In Pasifika households (this being the 1970s) physical punishment was not uncommon. So there was none of that with Dad. Also, he grew up in Fiji with just one book in the house: the Bible. So he wanted to swamp his own kids with books! In fact, we even had our own little library. Education and reading was vital.
Q Do you have a favourite memory of your dad?
A Sitting and listening to Dad talk to his mum and brothers in Fijian and Hindi. To me it was linguistic gymnastics – I was in awe and extremely fascinated.
Q What’s important about being a dad?
A I think making an effort and being present. Hanging out with your wee one and just making time, in whatever way you can.
Q What are you looking forward to doing with Wallace Jnr as he grows up?
A Playing in the little green space, Kuaka Park, down the road. Walking with him to his first day at school.
Q What are your hopes for Wallace Jnr?
A My hopes are high. My concerns are many. None of us have any idea what the world will look like when he turns 21, but prospects don’t look good. In fact, depending on what you read, they are deeply concerning. My hope is that he is agile enough to negotiate a modern world, put food on the table and a roof over his, and his family’s, head.
Q Do you have any wisdom to impart to other dads?
A Just enjoy the moment. Because each moment is truly wonderful. Cleaning his two little teeth. Looking out of the window together. Consoling when required. Every moment is special.