Its 3p.m. on a Saturday afternoon and I’m on my personal jogging circuit within my suburb. I pass houses, gardens, trees, cars, bicycles and birds, and two small reserves (parks). In both of these I notice a dad, with his kids (toddler to middle-primary school age) and a football. I’m struck by the coincidence of the duplicate scenario in the two similar but separated spaces and it gets me thinking (a good idea when you’re 30 minutes into your run and need some distraction).
I think it’s easier for the children to be in the space than it is for the two dads. I remember my own delight as a child when either of my parents took the initiative to be with me and my siblings to play a game, or go for a swim, or even a walk down to the shop for an ice cream. But what’s in it for dad, or more to the point what forces must he overcome to prioritise this activity at this time and in this space?
There are no obvious public rewards or recognition for making the decision to play with your kids. No financial benefits, no career advantage, no material home improvements will result; it’s unlikely that either dad will build much muscle tone or drop much weight in the process. Besides, shouldn’t dad be worn out from the working week and deserving of some ‘me’ time – he could be at the real football with his mates, or fishing or down the pub for a quiet one, or perhaps off-loading the kids to re-kindle the romance with mum – and doesn’t he deserve all or more than this?
Somehow, against all these formidable odds, two dads have made a way to create a space, a small memory and shared story in the narrative of family, community and us – and I am all the richer for having gained access to the view. A memory from my own journey as a parent floats to the surface – its Sunday this time and I’m psychologically consumed by my plans for some aspect of backyard maintenance when a still, small voice unexpectedly interrupts my preoccupation: ‘hey dad can we go fishing this afternoon?’ – it’s not the voice of God it’s just my 7-year-old son who’s looked outside and concluded that it would make much more sense for us to be together doing something we both enjoy rather than spending the afternoon in isolation from each other. On reflection, maybe this is the voice of God, the shy hope, the whisper in the mind? To my credit I find myself letting go the forgettable task in front of me and embracing the fragile opportunity to create shared story and memory.
Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Our Father … may your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. He also told a story of a person finding hidden treasure in a field. As I jog through my suburb I will pass by approximately 1.4 billion dollars of real-estate in my 40-minute circuit but what I really notice is the hidden treasure in plain sight: two dads and their kids, with a football, in the urban field of the public reserve.
Dr Phil Daughtry
Head of School, Humanities and Social Sciences