kids

"Everyone thought Tom Hawkins' latest baby photo was cute. But all I saw was danger."

If you’re following the gorgeous lifestyle blogger and WAG Emma Hawkins on Instagram, you probably let out a little squeal every time she posts another baby photo.

The latest photo of baby Arabella is no exception. Posted on social media last week and starring her famous father, Geelong footballer Tom Hawkins, the four-month-old is cradled in her daddy’s arms in the driver’s seat of a tractor.

‘Time to get your hands dirty,’ the caption reads.

Predictably, I went ‘awwwww.’ And then I got angry.

Watch: Mamamia staffers ‘fess up about the times they weren’t exactly perfect parents:

Most of the comments on the Instagram post centre around how squeezably cute the adorable Arabella is.

“Oh she is too pretty and pink for a dirty tractor Dad!!” wrote one commentor.

While another noted what a “real country girl” the four-month-old is already.

But I had a completely different response to this seemingly innocuous picture.

Listen: on the latest episode of our parenting podcast This Glorious Mess, Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo discuss the controversial photo.

Like Hawkins, I hail from the Riverina – the agricultural hub of southern New South Wales.

I grew up on a dairy farm, raised on a diet of fresh air and muddy boots, and I can tell you – the driver’s seat of a tractor is no place for kids.

I whiled away my weekends and school holidays with my big sister and a slew of cousins, exploring paddocks on the motorbike, building cubby houses in the haystack, sticking our feet in red-back spider infested gumboots and running for our lives from what we always assumed to be deadly snakes.

There is no doubt what we did was dangerous. There were plenty of run ins with electric fences.

Burns up our thighs from stacking the bikes. My sister once ran up to the house with a blood-curdling scream, crying “RACHEL’S DEAD,” after I inevitably fell down the haystack. Somehow I never got bitten by a snake or spider though, go figure!

Safety first! Image supplied.
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But getting in trouble is a country kid's prerogative, it's what separates us from the city kids who can hardly put a toe out the front door without parental supervision and emergency phone numbers tattooed on their heads.

And yet there is an exception to this very loose rule. There were always a couple of places that were off limits for kids on our farm: the tractor and the dairy.

I know a father who has never forgiven himself after running over his child in a tractor.

It ended in tragedy. My own little cousin was almost crushed to death after playing on the rotary dairy. Somewhere he should never have been. Both of these were accidents. But they were entirely preventable.

And there but for the grace of god go Arabella Hawkins.

This is as close as I ever got to a tractor. Image supplied.
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To know the statistics is to agree that tractors and kids don't mix.

Last year, there were 63 deaths on farms and far too many of them were kids. Approximately 20 children under 16 are killed on an Australian farm every year, and that doesn't even count the ones who are merely injured. Moreover, farm vehicles and machinery such as quad bikes and tractors are the leading cause of those deaths.

And in case you need more reminders, Farmsafe Australia recommends that children never ride on tractors.

I asked a few farmer friends for their opinions on whether this makes Arabella a "real country girl," and their responses were mixed.

One of them said "the safest place for a baby is in its father's arms," while others agreed with my hard-arse stance when it comes to kids and tractors.

I wonder what Farmsafe would have to say about this? Image supplied.

If you worked around heavy machinery and dangerous vehicles, would you take your baby to work? I didn't think so.

Yes, we can probably assume from the open door in the picture that the tractor wasn't running. It's likely (I hope) that Hawkins wouldn't be so reckless as to take his newborn on a joyride around the farm, sans baby seat. But to associate a child with dangerous farming equipment? This is not just irresponsible parenting, it's sending an irresponsible message to Hawkins' fans.

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As a public figure and a role model, Hawkins is held to a higher standard than other parents. Yes, all first-time parents make mistakes, but they don't necessarily do it in the spotlight. By taking this photo, Tom and Emma are normalising this behaviour and that just doesn't fly with me.

Next time Tommy, please snap a photo of your little girl picking four leaf clovers, or taking a mud bath in a paddock. And keep her far, far away from the tractor.

But all things considered, Arabella is an incredibly lucky girl to be growing up on the farm. Because country girls are tough, farm girls have more fun, and above all else, 'real country girls' know how to keep themselves safe.

Childhood doesn't get much better than this. Image supplied.

What do you think? Is this a farm kid rite of passage or a potentially deadly decision? 

You can listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here:

You can buy any book mentioned on our podcasts from iBooks at apple.co/mamamia, where you can also subscribe to all our other shows in one place.

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