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Reflections on Father’s Day

Reflections on Father’s Day

by Pattrick Smellie

I spent part of Father’s Day shooting children, including one of my own.

It was a lot of fun, and something important was firmly established. That is: if children were to declare war on adults, the adults would win. I also got a fellow member of the fathers’ team a beauty on the back of the head which really stung – paintball is not for the faint-hearted.

In fact, we should have mixed up the teams a bit. I got so bored waiting to be attacked by the cowering 12 and 13 year-olds that I made a mad, blind run up the middle, took a pole right by their defensive nest at the back, and shot about seven of them all at once, pretty much in the back.

Now, where does that put me on the PC parenting front?

I think Brian Lochore was a loving father who lived in a different age and whose views on good parenting are of little value today, other than to remind us that the whole point of running a wealthy, caring country is that things become progressively less brutish.

The kids we were fighting – there was one girl – were a soccer team until last week. A rain-plagued winter meant they hardly got enough games to prove themselves, but they started the season looking dangerous.

When they did play, they went out to win. And they were disappointed when they lost – almost as disappointed as the parents. I don’t know where the curmudgeons I read in the letters to the editor find all these “don’t want to win” kids. I don’t meet any and I know lots of them. Of course kids want to win – they also want to have a fun, fair game and not get hassled by their fathers to “be a man”.

However, I did ask myself: “is these boys’ unwillingness to attack the fathers a sign that we are raising wimps? Or are the fathers taking this just a bit too seriously? We seemed to be hammering the crap out of anyone who poked his nose out from behind a nice, safe bit of plywood, so their fear was rational enough.

My parents were not smackers, but I did smack my kids.

It took me a while to get real that smacking and hitting and assault on a child are all variants of the same thing.

And that I don’t smack my friends, or annoying people at work, or other peoples’ children. So why is it OK to hit my own child? It’s bullshit.

It’s also the only thing that I agree with Sue Bradford about. She talks rubbish on most economic issues, in my opinion, but on this country confronting the violence meted out to far too many of its children, she is absolutely right.

The Green MP Bradford has described as “a torturer’s charter” proposed amendments to define accetpable child abuse in the so-called “smacking” clauses of the Crimes Act.

It’s dramatic language, but it’s right. And it’s the logical place to stand if you are a Families First kind of person who is outraged every time a child is beaten to death by one or both of their parents in New Zealand – the real shame we must face as a country.

So why do organisations like Families First have such a sway over the public imagination when they seek the right of parents to smack/hit/beat children up to a certain point and it be lawful?

And how does the pursuit of next year’s Citizens Initiated Referendum on the right to commit physical violence on children help end a culture of violence towards children?

The connection between parental violence and the violent experience of those parents as children is inarguable.

How can a society that will not absolutely reject violence against its youngest citizens hope to cure the violent streak visible right across the socio-economic spectrum?

Children rely on us for their upbringing, for which they will repay us in our old age by being healthy, productive contributors. In return, our duty of care is to protect and raise them well.

For a very long time, hitting children was an acceptable part of that, in the way that for a very long time women were regarded as chattels and couldn’t vote.

It’s time to say no to violence against children. Naturally, paintballing will be exempt.


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