kids

'I'm a single dad to my little girl. This is what our Christmas will look like.'

This is the story of 35-year-old Melbourne single dad Tyrell Moore and his 10-year-old daughter Mariah, as told to Corrine Barraclough.

“I’ve been the primary residential parent for my daughter, Mariah, since she was 28 months old. We left my violent partner and ended up homeless after being rejected by all domestic violence shelters as they only accept women.

My ex currently has substantially supervised four-hour access, three times a fortnight.

Mariah loves Christmas! I’m an aboriginal man, and returning to my ancestral land is very important to me. Every second year we return to country to see family. Going home is always such a relief; as soon as we get there all the world’s stresses disappear.

 Tyrell and his daughter, Mariah. (Image provided)

We spend time with my mum, aunties, uncles and extended family. We all pitch tents in the backyard and Mariah gets to run around with about 20 kids. No wonder she loves it!

Unfortunately, the Santa cat is out of the bag. She found out last week who Santa really is - me! A friend of mine let it slip. She had an inkling anyway. She came and took my hand and said, 'Dad, I thought it was you. The writing on Santa’s gift tags looks exactly like yours!'

I never enjoyed Christmas until my daughter was born. Until you have a child you don’t know what unconditional love is. Since she was born, I’ve wanted to give her magic and hope each Christmas, and belief the world is a special place.

As all single parents know, money is tight. Life can be tough, so I like to make Christmas as special as I can for her.

All adult relatives will stay up on Christmas Eve wrapping presents. We’ll be at my aunty’s house; she’s a very stylish aboriginal woman and is brilliant at decorating to make everything feel festive. She’s 47 and pregnant with triplets who are due on January 6th so this really will be a special time for us.

We’ll all be up early to have breakfast and open presents with the kids. Mariah needs a laptop for school so that’s on the list and I’ll get her some surprises.

I buy presents in four categories: something to read, something you need, something you want and something to wear.

"Mariah needs a laptop for school so that’s on the list and I’ll get her some surprises."

I always buy her a dress for Christmas. The good thing about being back home is it’s around 40 degrees. I can wash her new dress when she’s opened it on Christmas morning and it’s dry, ready for her to wear in an hour. Yes, I always wash new clothes before she wears them!

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The kids will all run around and play with their new presents in the back yard. We’ll turn on the sprinkler for them to play in too, so they can cool down. I’ll help in the kitchen and with the roast and BBQ. My mum does an amazing cauliflower cheese so we’re already looking forward to that.
We all have a siesta in the afternoon; the kids have worn themselves out by then. Once all the cooking’s done and everyone’s had a big feast everyone’s ready for some shuteye for a couple of hours. We usually put on a movie for kids who don’t want to take a nap.

In the evening it will be more food. We put music on and have a sing and dance.

For the first six years I read to Mariah every night. Now we’re at the stage where she reads to me. I love it! I don’t like her going to bed too late; around 9:30pm is late enough, 8pm on school nights.

When we don’t go back home to my family it’s just the two of us at Christmas. That can be very hard. When I found myself a lone father I struggled to find any support so I set up Sole Fathers United. It’s a support, social and education network for fathers and their children promoting positive, practical and proactive parenting. We do everything from cooking, to Zumba and braiding hair!

 We do everything from cooking, to Zumba and braiding hair! (Image provided)

In the past we’ve had some awesome Christmas functions with fathers, their kids and extended families, with presents donated from the Salvation Army.

Those events cost around $2,500 to put on, we can’t afford that right now. I’m not sure what next year will bring as we don’t get any funding. I wish we did, there’s heaps more support I would like to provide.

Lots of the men in the group have left violent partners. I’d like to set up the first domestic violence shelter for fathers and their children who are often forgotten. I’ve heard there are around 600 domestic violence shelters in Australia; I can’t believe there aren’t any for men.

Hopefully that will change. For now, I’m here to support fathers as much as I can!”

* Sole Fathers United is not for profit organisation based in Melbourne. Events and workshops promote paternal engagement with their children. For more information visit this website.

* For more from Corrine, follow her on Facebook here.

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