Encouraging Dads to Be Great Dads

It’s the Spring school holidays in most parts of Australia, and with the weather warming up many of us are getting out the tents, dusting off the camper trailers, and packing the sleeping bags into the back of the car to head off on adventures. Well, truth be told, like us, lots of us are heading to the world of modern camping, or glamping as it has affectionately been coined.

We spent two nights away at a caravan park that is often described as the best in the state. With a heated pool complex with spa, a tropical resort heated pool complex with spa and water slide, a water-park, an adventure playground, a communal camp kitchen which includes communal fridges, microwave ovens, stoves and kitchen sinks with free washing up liquid, go-karts and electric bike hire, a games/TV Room, two half-sized tennis courts, basketball court, free barbecues, entertainment barn, wireless internet hotspots, DVD/game hire, laundry facilities, an on site cafe, pay television to all accommodation (cabins) and plenty of activities for kids, this really isn’t camping as those who are worried about having to “rough it” camping think it might be.

As I posted on my personal Facebook page;

Our camping site. In the background of photo 1 is the communal kitchen and in the background of photo 2 is the shower block. We have instant hot water, hot showers, heated outdoor pools, and power running to our tent. I love roughing it.

Our camping site. In the background of photo 1 is the communal kitchen and in the background of photo 2 is the shower block. We have instant hot water, hot showers, heated outdoor pools, and power running to our tent. I love roughing it.

Although it rained on the first night, and for most of the following morning, we had a great day of sun and fun on the Sunday spending the whole morning in the pool after taking a few rides around the BMX track at the local park next to the caravan park.

After lunch on the Sunday we planned to head down to the beach which is only a few hundred metres from our camp site. Whilst I was cleaning up our area, in the spare camp site next to us, a dad turned up with his two children. The first thing I noticed was his car. It was a Mercedes Benz 4WD SUV which I predict is valued at somewhere between $150K to the low $200Ks. The next thing we noticed, and by “we” I mean half of the other campers at the caravan park was that this guy had more than the attention of three of the workers at the caravan park. In fact, he had their help.

The tent he brought was what I consider a basic entry level, a single room dome tent. These are basic to put up. But this guy stood back whilst the three guys started unpacking and setting up his tent. The father was dressed immaculately as you’d expect someone who drives a car like the one I described. His pigeon paired kids were dressed in top notch clothes too. They definitely weren’t dressed for camping, and with his Ferrari polo top and designer jeans that are probably worth more than all the clothes I packed for the camping trip combined, there looked like they would be better suited to have their luggage carried to their five star room in the Hilton rather than at some, well, how many stars can you give a dome tent and inflatable bed?

A sea of dome tents, many like the one the dad need help setting up.

A buzz was going around the camp site and people were “casually” walking past to see what all the commotion was about. Some people were saying that never in the twenty or thirty years that they’ve been camping have they ever seen such special treatment of a fellow camper.

Once the tent was set up, all bar the guy ropes, the three workers shook hands with the dad, one of them commenting on how much he loved the guy’s car, and they told him that he could take it from there. I watched him as he took a domestic hammer and, holding the handle closer to the hammer end than the handle end, he tried to bang the pegs into the ground to secure the guy ropes in place. This made me think back to when I was pulled up whilst using a hammer the wrong way when I was in my twenties.

My dad was our handyman at home, but unlike some dads who taught their kids how to use tools, my dad thought that he’d get the job done quicker and without problems if he shooed us kids away and did it all himself. Many years later, whilst using a hammer around a former girlfriend’s dad, he noticed that my technique wasn’t getting me anywhere fast. He showed me how to swing the hammer from the base of the handle and make every hit count.

I went to the back of my car and got out my mallet and walked over to the dad.

“Can I give you a few tips? It might be better to use this mallet to bang the pegs in, and it’s best to hold the hammer back here and give it a good swing…”

The guy thanked me and took the mallet from me and using my technique he bashed those suckers into the ground with great speed.

“Thanks mate. You are right. This is easier.”

What I did was this; I assessed the situation playing out many “what ifs” in my mind. What if this “poor” guy comes from a wealthy family who has had everything done for him? What if he’s never been camping before? Highly likely. What if he’s never been shown how to use a hammer before? I know that I didn’t know the proper technique until I was in my twenties.

I have, up until this point been holding back a piece of information. The father and his two kids are of Indian descent. Again it made me think that maybe they don’t have caravan parks and camping like we do in our part of the world.

Again I’m going to turn to a post I put up on my personal Facebook page;

This morning we all went for a swim and a spa. There was a family in the pool area speaking in a language I wasn’t familiar with. Whilst the others headed over with the kids to the shed to decorate their bikes, I headed back to the tent with the wet items. As I walked out of the pool area that family was also leaving.

Me “Where are you guys from?”

The Mum “We’re from Slovakia.”

Me “How long are you out here?”

The Dad “It’s been two years. We came out for a six month holiday and decided to move here.”

Me “It’s a great country, isn’t it?”

The Dad “We love it. This is our first camping holiday and now we think we’ll need to buy a 4WD and a caravan so we can fit in more.”

Typical foreigners coming to our country and assimilating. I wish they’d keep their own traditions and bring their problems with them.

You see, despite what many people will talk about in person or on social media, be it here in Australia, in the United States, or England, or all over the Western World, there are plenty of people coming to “our” country and trying to fit in. They ARE trying to be the best damn Aussie, American or Brit they can be, but sometimes they just need our help to get them on their way.

Breakfast whilst camping. Building memories...

Breakfast whilst camping; building memories of eating cereal out in the open…

I looked at his two kids. I thought to myself that if this guy doesn’t make this first camping trip fun, and if it’s not successful, there might not be any more camping trips. I thought that maybe the suggestion for this came from school friends who were also going camping, and as scared shitless as this dad might have been, as terrified as he may have been about roughing it in a single room on an inflatable mattress with his kids pretty much being on top of him, he has stepped up to the plate and delivered a holiday that will become the benchmark for holidays to come.

It was fun to joke around with my friends and say to the young caravan park workers “how do we get service like that?” but the truth of the matter is, giving this guy a few pointers is probably going to set him on the path to being the world’s greatest dad who spends his time, more valuable than money on his kids.

My first born son often talks to me about the things that I like to do, like listen to or play music of my own. He knows that I love to watch Star Wars and talk about it too. We love doing that together. And he knows that I wrote this blog. He often tells people that “my dad writes a blog to help other dads be great dads.” I always think it’s more about me wanting to be a better dad and sharing my experiences and ideas to encourage other dads to also be better dads.

And then, when I can, when the opportunity presents itself, there are definitely times that I do encourage dads to be great dads. There have been times when we’ve been out with family or friends that I have seen dads call out to their wife when their child needs someone to take them to the toilet, or when a nappy has been soiled so that the mother can change it, and I’ll ask “why don’t you go? Why don’t YOU do it?”

My own brother who is almost five years my senior but who became the father of twins five months after we had our first did it a few times. When one of his kids smelled to high heaven, he called out for my sister-in-law to change the baby.

WTF?

Nope. You’re not playing the dopey dad… not on my watch buddy….

The dad and his kids disappeared from their camp site for about half and hour leaving behind a 5 metre extension lead plugged into the power outlet between our sites. My mate who we were camping with pointed at it and suggested that it wasn’t even one that is suitable for using outdoors. On his return to the camp site, the dad came over to me and asked me how he could poke the power lead through the back of the tent. I told him that the only opening in his tent was at the front and he pulled out a new 10 metre lead he had just bought.

I told him that, whatever he does, the lead MUST end inside he tent so that he doesn’t get electrocuted should it rain or it become damp outside with the evening or morning dew. I mentioned that next time he goes camping he should invest in a proper outside lead, or one like the one I brought which has a built in RCD protection which will cut the power in one billionth of a millisecond should it short out. But I’m lucky that I have worked in industrial industries working along side electricians and plumbers who have given me advice over the years. I’m lucky that I’ve worked for companies that, due to my role of working on or simply visiting construction sites, I need to hold a work safe certificate and I know about safety gear such as RCD protected external use power leads.

For all the advice I gave him, the dad thanked me. I just told him to have a great time and give his kids a great holiday. And I told him that should he need any further advice about camping, talk to the professional campers who were all around him. Some people grow up being campers. I was 33 years old when my wife (girlfriend back then) decide to make a three week camping holiday our first major holiday together.

I was inexperienced then. But the one thing I learned fast is that campers are helpful. They are friendly. They like to talk about their gear and they like to give advice. It brings a smile to their faces. This is where the term “happy camper” comes from.

Are you a camper? Do you like roughing it? Tell me your camp stories or post a link to a blog post of your own about your camping adventures.



Categories: Active Fathers, Family Relationships, Male Issues, Parental Advice Columns, Parenting Problems, Teaching Children, Travel

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