SOME KIND OF WON­DER­FUL

First in the hot seat for our new dad’s quiz is Wal­lace Chap­man

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Ny­berg

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.

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