One place that’s got pretty fond memories for me is Kāwhia. I remember sitting in the black sand making sand castles with him. I think that’s the place we really bonded as father and son. The first time he called me Dad was pretty touching. It was in this two bedroom unit we were living in, and he just popped out with it. “Dad.”
It hit me then. Hard.
From that time on I dedicated my time to him. All he wanted was a Dad. I could see that, because it’s all I wanted, too. My own father was absent growing up. I was raised by my mother and grandmother. And my grandfathers. They were a huge influence in my life. They were the centre, the very pith of the family.
But really, it was Mum. She taught me how to dive. How to build fires and survive on the land. She taught me tikanga around the moana. How to appreciate what the land gives you. That’s why I always say that my Mum gets Mother’s and Father’s day, because she taught me how to be more of a man than my father.
There were always whāngai-d kids around growing up. We didn’t consider them to be outsiders. They were just whānau. It’s the same with my boy. I don’t think of us sharing DNA, what we share is something much deeper. He’s got my mannerisms. He does quirky, “stoopid” things like me. Sometimes, growing up, he’d tell his friends that I wasn’t his biological Dad and they couldn’t believe it. They’d say “but you two are so similar!”
To be a Dad you don’t have to share the same blood. Simple things like passing the ball. Just standing there passing it back and forwards. Or watching him play. If a kid asks you to play, you play. Being a father’s not that hard. It’s simple. Love the kid. That’s it.