Parting Shot: A father’s worries


IT’S not all about me any more.

Better make that me and the missus.

That’s because we - as Margaret Thatcher would have said - have become a father.

After four weeks of being peed on, spewed on, and living in a tiny home crammed with baby gear, I’m loving it.

Despite the day-to-day realities of caring for a brand-new human and the mental fog of sleep deprivation, few things are more rewarding than coming home to your baby’s smile.

Who cares if it’s actually a wind-induced grimace?

Every day brings new challenges and uncertainties, but in lacking the equipment for producing breast milk, I know I’ve got it easy.

At least we’ve been prepared by parenting and ante-natal classes, as well as a raft of advice from family, friends, workmates and midwives.

What I wasn’t prepared for were some deeper thoughts about the big stuff - the fragility of life, the role of luck, an acute sense of the passing of time.

I’d heard all the clichés about parenthood, I’ve watched three older brothers and their wives raise children and I’ve consumed countless novels, films and television programmes touching on the subject.

Yet, I’ve been surprised by a new sense of responsibility, and struck by the triviality of previous worries and preoccupations.

I have a new appreciation of what my parents had to go through to bring me up in this world, and
yet I’ve barely got started on my own journey.

Fatherhood’s also given me an incentive to get emotionally invested in this place.

Assuming that Queenstown is where my boy spends his formative years, I suddenly have a new incentive to be curious about this community, its institutions and decision makers.

As Ralph Hanan wrote in these pages a few months ago, can we expect “ever more discordant planning, scattershot development, congestion, environmental degradation, and social frustration?’

His call for central, regional, and local authorities to gather around the table and develop a 20-year strategic plan seems like an impossible dream.

I, too, would like to see a vision of how this place will look in 10 or 20 years, but I’m not hopeful.

The special housing area wrangle encapsulates many of the big issues: rapid population growth, housing affordability, aesthetic and environmental values. 

It has exposed a rift in the community around which there will never be a consensus.

In the end, Ralph’s fears will at least be partly realised. We live in a market-based economy with a current trend towards more permissive planning laws.

The district’s development will be largely shaped by external economic and cultural forces, unforeseen technological change and government policy driven by private polling and a three-year electoral cycle.

By prioritising of its spending and lobbying of central government, our council can help channel that development.

But in the face of buffeting economic winds, the best it can do is adjust our sails in the direction that seems best at the time, and try to avoid rocks.

Finally, a shout-out to midwives. Their work seldom receives public attention unless things go catastrophically wrong.

We were helped by our own and others during my wife and boy’s four days at Southland and Lakes District hospitals.

I have never felt so utterly reliant on other people’s expertise, and so overwhelmingly grateful for their care and advice.