One Shy of a Netball Team
Some of us are simply predisposed, reproductively, to one gender. Science, and all that. I have three girls, while my sister has three boys. But it’s not uncommon; in my group of mates, there’s a few boasting a trio of the fairer sex, including Jarrod Patterson, the Strathmerton-raised, jet-setting human resources manager.
‘Patto’ recently moved to Singapore with his wife and three daughters after a stint back in Melbourne, which followed three years in Kuala Lumpur where he turned out for the Malaysian Warriors in the AFL Asia league.
I caught up with him recently to chat about all things work and family, crystal-balling our futures with a combined six teenage girls, and duking it out over who might go around again to make up the netball team.
Welcome to the three-girl club, Patto. Any disappointment at all about not having a boy?
In short, no. My wife and I were often asked during the pregnancy if we wanted a boy or if we were hoping to have a boy. But we just wanted a healthy baby and thankfully that’s what we got. Secretly I also don’t mind that the dress-ups and regular tea parties will get extended as baby Beth grows.
As my girls get older it’s becoming increasingly apparent that I’m dominated by females. How do you find it?
I am generally OK, but I do get a little testy when it comes to who controls the TV remote. There is only so much Doc McStuffins and Tinker Bell (Stinker Bell to me; sorry, dad-joke) a grown man can watch.
How do you go with the ‘girlie’ stuff? Dolls, dress-ups, difficult hair manoeuvres? (I’m hopeless; can do a piggy-tail but I’m hopeless with plaits, buns and the like.)
I’m a pro thanks to all the instructional YouTube clips. Not sure how fathers of girls managed before the internet was around, to be honest. Honestly, though I am hopeless at plats also, so I just tell the girls I think their hair looks lovely out which is normally met with a frown.
What fun, father-daughter stuff do you do with your girls?
Well, we have Wednesday night wrestles – which is more about them trying to jump all over me whilst I am watching TV. This is normally great fun until someone starts to cry, which is when the girls hand over some tissues and tell me to harden up (sorry, another dad-joke).
Seriously, though, I love taking the girls to a movie or on a daddy-daughter date to one of our local cafes. When mum is around I am all about not giving the girls too much junk food but when it’s just me and them it’s free-for-all on the sweets. My favourite is buying the family-size Maltesers and allocating them only a few each in a small bowl (makes it look like they have more). After they finish their rations I try to build them up a little by saying they have been so good that I’ll let them have another two; meanwhile I have devoured the rest of the bag. I normally go for a long bike ride the next day to try and ward off diabetes as it is surprising how much sugar there is in 100 Maltesers.
How do you think the role of the dad is perceived in the modern, new-age environment?
This still varies a lot but I do believe views, in general, are much more progressive. You are expected to be much more hands-on and involved and I have to say this suits me very much, except for nappy-changing (joking, please don’t hate me, ladies).
Interestingly, I was reading a book recently about how fathers used to not be allowed in the birthing room. They would wait in the hall, or the local pub, and after all the pushing and screaming was done the father simply had to arrive and accept the baby wrapped in either a blue or pink blanket. Although I never was truly comfortable in the birthing room, as I felt completely hopeless being unable to assist in any meaningful way, I am really glad society’s views on parenting is changing for the better.
What are the biggest challenges fatherhood has presented you?
When you become a parent your social life changes and you have to make sacrifices – although never as much as the mums, of course. This takes some adjustment to find a balance but in the end spending time with your children and family is the most rewarding time, even when at times you may not recognize it fully when the baby is crying and your four-year-old has put toothpaste on your work trousers.
Sleepless nights and getting used to crying babies can also test your resilience. Sleep is really critical for both mum and dad and it is important that you give each other some rest, especially for the mum considering what they have endured.
Honestly, at the moment we have been really blessed and haven’t had many challenges out of the ordinary. I would be lying, however, if I didn’t say I have some reservations about the upcoming teenage years. At the moment they still think dad is pretty cool but even my most egotistical side knows this cannot last.
You’ve spent a good stint overseas with your kids due to work – briefly recap on that if you could. Was fatherhood easier/harder over there? How did your girls find Malaysian culture, or were they too young to take it in properly?
This was a fantastic experience and we grew a lot as a family during that time. Malaysia is often referred to as the rainbow nation due to its diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. As a result, we learned so much about the world and probably also our own culture. For the girls, especially our eldest daughter Charli, it provided her exposure to different cultures far beyond what I had as a boy growing up in a small country town where diversity started with Thursday-night lasagne and ended with Chinese takeaway on Saturday afternoon.
I believe and hope the girls will have some lasting memories from this experience, even if they are more unspoken or tacit. Their knowledge of geography and culture is probably more advanced than me when I was 20, which can only be a good thing.
Another great benefit of living in a country like Malaysia was, of course, the domestic help. We had two great nannies (at separate times) during our time abroad who spent a lot of time playing with and tending to the kids. Our two eldest daughters both picked up some pretty cute accents for a time also, but they are slowly fading into the background as the Aussie accent starts to take hold.
Can you bring yourself to look forward a decade or so when your girls are in their teens? Have you thought any more about going halves in a shotgun?
At the moment this is where ignorance truly is bliss, Lewy. But seriously, I want my girls to be strong and independent thinkers who are not restricted by gender stereotypes. Their teenage years will no doubt bring this in spades and I can only hope we can ride out the storm and keep them pointed in the right direction. I also take some solace in the fact that my father-in-law helped to get four country girls through their teenage years and safely into adulthood without too many incidents.
(Note: I have already advised the girls they cannot move out until they turn 30, which is probably optimistic given housing affordability in Melbourne. I am sure I will regret that when they are teenagers, though.)
How has fatherhood softened you? Has your stance on sports like women’s footy changed at all since having daughters?
Fatherhood has softened me a lot I think. It probably comes a little with age as well but you soon learn to be patient when you share one toilet and bathroom with a household of girls. Gosh, if I am saying that now I wonder what I will be saying in 10 years…
Someone recently pointed out we only need one more between us for a netball team. I’m no chance, so I guess you’ll have to go around one more time. Thoughts?
Think we will need to look elsewhere for an additional player.