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Bonzer Words!: Been there—done that!

Nick Ogbourne belives that dads should take a full share in their children's school days.

Nick writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

While reading the Sunday paper a while ago, the following headline caught my eye:

MUMS MAKE ROOM AS DADS' ARMY REPORTS FOR SCHOOL DUTY

Hang on a minute, I thought. That's not new. 30 years ago, I was the original SNAG, before the name was even invented.

Long before it was fashionable or accepted, I was the dad who changed the baby's nappies, took them in the shower, even got up in the night to them. Sounds like your wife had a pretty cushy life, you're thinking. Well actually, she was working too and still did more than her fair share of housework, cooking and childcare. Bucking the macho image of the Aussie bloke of the 60s, I wanted to share my children's upbringing, not just now and then, but all the time, and I LOVED IT!

When primary school days rolled around, I did the traditional male things—Parents & Friends, working bees, school fetes, but I also put my hand up for the time-old mothers' domain, canteen duty and school excursions. I could see no reason why a man couldn't make a salad roll, or sell an apple as well as a woman. I do have to admit that in those days the most popular items were still sausage rolls, meat pies and chocolate bars, before our eyes were opened to the health risks of such a diet. Helping a small child sort out the change from $1 for a special treat was a delight. I think I was tolerated, more than accepted by the other ladies, though it was obvious I cramped their style and put the brakes on their gossip sessions. However, a man has his uses, for lifting heavy crates and such like.

Then came the day when I was trusted to go on a school trip. Then, as now, very few primary school teachers, except the principal, were men, and a positive male role model was badly needed by many of the boys. To some, the idea of a male Mothers Help was very strange, and I mean to teachers as well as students. It was just the novel idea that a man would enjoy spending that sort of time with kids. Don't get me wrong—I'm not criticising the fathers of the other kids who were my children's peers.

For the norms of the time, they were great dads, and did many things with their sons and daughters that I didn't. I am no sportsman and have very little idea what to do with a footy ball when one is thrown at me, but relating to youngsters, girls as well as boys, isn't only about sport. It's just that I guess I was different in wanting to be more involved in the nurturing side of their upbringing. And I was fortunate that my employment allowed me to do that to some extent. All fathers were not able to do so. I have to add that nowadays, due to stricter laws, I would not be allowed to put my arm round a child who had fallen over and was crying. This I would find very difficult, as who would not want to comfort a distressed child, but I have to accept and understand the necessity for such rules.

Unfortunately, my grandchildren now live 600km away, so I can't drop into their school on a regular basis to be Grandfather Help. The best I can do is to try and be there for special occasions. However, I am delighted that my eldest son is following in my footsteps, with direct involvement as often as he is able. I like to think at least some of his motivation is because of fond memories of his own schooldays when his father was the talk of the classroom and the Mothers' Club! .


© Nick Ogbourne

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