A different beat: creating that daddy-baby bond
Colin Gruetzmacher frets about how best to bond with his son.
There is something really special about dads sharing their hobbies with their kids. This is probably true for many mums as well, but it seems like every new dad I’ve spoken to is so excited to introduce his kids to his own favourite hobbies. Sporty dads might buy their kids rugby balls and baby rugby shirts; geeky dads might go for the Star Wars memorabilia; outdoor dads might buy their kids a line and some tackle, hoping they’ll get hooked on fishing. Or maybe not – sorry, I don’t actually know that much about fishing.
Anyway, I reckon us dads have an innate drive to get our kids to like the same things we do. Maybe it’s because we want them to be clued-up about what we think is cool (and given that we probably won’t be very cool for very long, it’s good to do this early). Maybe it’s because we just want a buddy to do things with. Or maybe it’s because we feel insecure about how best to relate to this tiny human. While mums have the whole pregnancy, and perhaps also the breastfeeding experience, dads are sort of ‘on standby’, and encouraging our kids to throw a ball around with Dad, or act out the heavy-breathing “I am your father” scene from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, is our way of connecting. For me it’s always been music. I’ve been obsessed with playing and listening to music all my life. When I heard Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees for the first time, it was like a whole new world opened up. I found part of my identity and a sense of community through new groups like Death Cab for Cutie, The Stokes, and Sigur Ros. They became the filter through which I heard life, and the inspiration that I drew from as I started playing in bands.
When I knew I was having kids, I was stoked about the musical possibilities. As a child I’d languished in the bland soundscape of my dad’s smooth jazz albums, but I promised myself this wouldn’t happen to my kids. We would skip all those terrible kids’ songs, ban the Top 40 from our household and introduce our offspring to the depressingly beautiful musical world of Bon Iver. My kids were going to be the most musically hip children you’d ever meet. I even imagined them going to Mainly Music classes and politely asking whether there were any Phil Collins songs to dance to.
Yet, the best-laid plans still go wrong. Can you imagine my despair when, despite all my efforts to play carefully selected bands throughout the pregnancy and first year, Leo, my firstborn, asked me to change the music and “put on The Wiggles”. Somehow Rock-a-bye Your Bear beat everything else. It got even worse when Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feelin’ became our morning default dance track.
I think it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost a connection point with your kids when they don’t like the same things as you. When Leo rejected my music, it felt like he was rejecting me, and what I brought to the parenting party. Later I realised that, by wanting him to like music at my level, I was missing what was happening at his. In actual fact, the kid loves all music – just not mine. All of his favourite shows are based around songs. He loves to practise strumming on my guitars, and knows all their different model names. He sings around the house so much that, when his sister Cora was 18 months old, she could sing the ABC song and Twinkle Twinkle by heart.
Now I’m learning that what I can share with Leo is less about the genre and more about the experience. To make a meaningful connection with him, I don’t need him to like what I like. I’m learning that hobbies are just a tool – a way to hang out. And I count my blessings. He may be marching to a different drum, but at least he’s got rhythm. He may not like Radiohead, but at least he sings with me in the car. I’ll still play Fake Plastic Trees around Cora though, because just quietly, I’m still holding out hope for her.
Colin Gruetzmacher is the pastor of Golden Sands Baptist Church. He lives in Tauranga with his wife and two wee children, Leo (three) and Cora (22 months). When he’s not trying to indoctrinate his children with his musical taste, he can be found secretly jamming to his kids’ favourite tune: Dennis Marsh’s classic Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 44 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW