“I obviously want to have my own family one day and I want to make sure my man can handle the pressure.”
And so began the humiliating, mandatory I’ll-watch-as-you-try-to-wrangle-dozens-of-hyped-up-kids task on Wednesday night’s episode of The Bachelorette.
Just as the contestants in the last season of The Bachelor were made to do, the blokes had their parenting potential assessed on the basis of how well they interacted with a bunch of hyperactive kids they’d never met before.
It certainly makes for good TV, but judging whether someone would make a good future father of your children based on whether they know what Minecraft is just doesn’t seem fair.
Being a good parent isn’t a quality you’re born with, it’s something you learn. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)
An overwhelmed Dave (the plumber) eventually confessed to Sam that he loved kids, but was out of his “comfort zone by a mile”.
And that’s perfectly OK. Because who the hell knows what to say to a seven year old? It’s been decades since he was their age and times have certainly changed since then. But it doesn’t mean the bloke will be a deadbeat dad.
I also love kids and have no idea what to say to them. After ‘What’s that (referring to whatever toy they are holding)?’, ‘What grade are you in?’ and ‘Do you like your teacher?’ I’m completely out of conversation starters.
Frankly, I find kids bloody terrifying. Largely because of their tendency to speak the painful truth. I once told my netball coach, who urged me to focus on one spot to stay balanced during a warm-up exercise, that I was… I was looking at the wart on her face. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful, just speaking the plain old truth. (I still feel bad about it, by the way.) Similarly, a colleague was asked by kids she was babysitting if she had chickenpox. (Um, no… they were just pimples.) They don’t mean to be cruel… I don’t think.
Anyway, after a torturous hour or so of running around with the parentless children (or “being terrorised” by them, as Ritchie put it), Sam surmised: “I have no doubts that they’re going to make wonderful fathers one day.”
But I think drawing that conclusion from the way a bloke interacts with kids while being filmed for a reality TV show is a dangerous game.
Maybe he is fantastic at conversing with kids because he is immature and, therefore, able to relate to them better. Maybe he has nieces and nephews, or works with kids, so has a clue about what the hell interests them. Maybe he is outgoing and finds it easy to put himself out on a limb. Maybe he will still be a shit father. Maybe he will lose interest in the kid or his partner and move to greener pastures. Maybe he will spend all his time at work to avoid the noise and mess of his child-filled house. Maybe he will discover that children aren’t so fun when you’re responsible for them 24/7.
Just because you can’t easily chat with someone 30 years your junior doesn’t mean you won’t make a good parent. Choosing a partner who is compassionate and kind is far more important than one who can keep up with a primary schooler’s conversation.
My husband and I are expecting a child in a couple of months. Neither of us have spent a great deal of time with kids and he’s never even held a baby. But that’s OK. The practical side of things will come with reading books, going to classes and on-the-job experience. In fact, he is already learning. Last week he confirmed, “So, you don’t put babies face down when you put them to bed?” See, progress.
But I know he will make a great father – despite his complete lack of knowledge of the practicalities – because of the way he listens to me talk about my problems and helps me find a solution; the way he patiently takes our dog outside at night to pee and then tucks her into her bed, covering her with a blanket if it’s cold and making sure she has water; the way he tells me random stories in the middle of the night to distract my racing mind when I can’t sleep; and the way he treats me, his family members and friends with the utmost respect.
I don’t need to see how he acts around a bunch of primary schoolers to know that he is caring and gentle and stern when he needs to be.
These are the kind of traits Sam should be looking out for – not worrying about how many kids want to play Shark Island.
If you missed the challenge, you can watch it here: