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TackleNappy Dad of the Year - Lee Jamieson

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Gusty winds dampen to but a breath, pouring rain fades to nothing but a light mist, the clouds whisk away like a flock of seagulls infiltrated by a hungry fox, butterfly's flutter carefree and birds sing songs more beautiful than any song heard before. A single ray of light, heavenly from above, lights up the virtual hands of Bucky as if a million suns shone together as one. Lee reaches out and receives something more valuable than gold to a poor man, more important than water to a man who has lost his way in the desert, something more beautiful than the site of land to a sailor lost at sea. Lee receives the interview questions. He looks at Bucky and pauses. After considering his words for some time, remarks "About fuckin' time".

I'm here with Lee, father to half dozen, father figure to many, but the only man in the world to ever be crowned TackleNappy's Dad of the Year.

 

About Lee...

Lee, you're a very deserving winner of our inaugural TackleNappy Dad of the Year Award. You were nominated by your wife Erin (see nomination below). Tell us a little about yourself, about Erin, and how you came together.

Before I met Erin I was a childrens' photographer working across Western Australia and occasionally into the Northern Territory. I spent probably four and a half weeks out of every six on the road doing insane kilometers and spending every other night in different motels/hotels. My diet consisted of fast food and motel meals – consequently I was not in the best of shape.

Erin and I met through a mutual friend who arranged for us to go on a blind date together. We met at our friends house then drove to Albany (WA) and had dinner, then drove around a bit and went back to our friends house (where I was staying the night) and she went home. A couple of days later, I went and visited her at her house and met her kids, S and M. S was nine and M was nearly three and had recently come into Erin's care. I spent the day there and got to know her and the kids better. I asked her if we could go on another date later in the week and she said yes!

Erin's Nomination

I would like to nominate my husband Lee as dad of the year. When I first met Lee (almost 10 years ago now) I was a single mum with a 9 yo daughter and a 3 yo autistic foster son...I was also pregnant with a little girl. He has always accepted those children as his own and we have 3 boys together.

We do emergency and respite foster care and on Jan 20 this year we had an emergency placement of 3 young children...My oldest has left home so this gave us 8 children in the house...the placement started as a weekend placement but stretched into 6 months. (they moved in with their grandmother 2 weeks ago). These kids were severely traumatised by the life they had before coming into care and there were lots of behavioural issues.

And then over Easter we were asked if we could look after an 11 month old baby for 10 days while his regular carers went on holiday. No Problem...only his regular carers never took him back and he is still living with us indefinitely....so from Easter til a couple of weeks ago we were up to 9 :)

Lee has pitched in with practically everything, he changes nappies baths children, does laundry, cleans floors, runs the kids around to their varying sports events and cooks dinner more often than I do. With the foster bub being only 5 months younger than our own youngest...and neither of them sleeping through...he has done his fair share of night shifts and last week he even did a 700km round trip (day trip) to take some furniture to my oldest daughter in Perth. He is a kind compassionate man with a big heart.

So you went from single man to married father of two (with the third knocking on the door) in no time at all, that must have been a bit of a shock to the system?

It was! I always wanted children, but to go from single (gross bachelor) to a married father of two with another one on the way was quite a shock to the system.

You married relatively quickly after first meeting. Obviously you realized early on that you were onto a good thing! And I guess Erin would have had the cute little baby bump hiding under her wedding dress too!

We had originally planned to marry in November after bub was born, but I had the bright idea of us marrying earlier so that Bub would have my name, as her dad had disappeared, and I wanted her to have my last name, rather than Erin's previous married name. Erin agreed after a bit of convincing.

So, a standard question most people get asked, who proposed, where, and how did it go?

I remember it was New Years Eve, and we were preparing for Erin's family New Years Party. We were talking and in the course of the discussion, decided to get married. I can't remember who asked who, but by the end of the evening we were engaged. Really romantic!

What about the Honeymoon, did you manage to get away alone, or with a couple of little ones in tow?

We were blessed to have Erin's mum and Dad take the two kids off our hands for our three day honeymoon. We went down to Albany – which is about one and a half hours from where we now live. Only a short getaway, but it was good.

I understand one of your sons, from Erin's first relationship, is on the autism spectrum. Did this pose any challenges in the early days of your relationship, i.e. your sons acceptance of the change?

Mr M (our foster son) came to live with Erin when he had only just turned two, which was about ten months before I came along. He wasn't diagnosed with Autism until he was four, but we knew there was something "different" about him. He accepted me quickly without too much screaming.

You now have six kids, how many times have you been likened to the Brady Bunch? All you need now is a maid named Alice!

Funnily enough, never. We have had our sanity questioned numerous times, been called crazy (among other things), but have never been likened to the Brady Bunch. Although I do think, a maid would be a great addition, as long as she was happy to work for room and board.

 

On Emergency & Respite Foster Care...

Lee, Erin nominated you for the TackleNappy Dad of the Year award predominantly because of your commitment to helping kids in urgent need of care and support. Can you tell us a little more about how you provide emergency and respite foster care?

For us, Foster caring is what we feel we have been placed on this earth to do. There are so many hurting and needy children in this country, and so few foster carers that some carer families have multiple kids from different families placed with them. More often than not, we have less than 24 hours notice of an emergency placement, and occasionally it's less than two hours. Our kids come from a range of backgrounds and even though technically we are not allowed to have indigenous children, we have one boy with us now.

The kids often have some trauma – emotional or physical and occasionally both. They have issues with behavior, learning and socializing, which makes it hard to integrate them into our family and the school. We try to instigate routines and reward charts to help the transition.

I can imagine this type of work would be both physically and emotionally demanding for Erin, yourself and family?

It is very demanding, and exhausting. We try to make time for us, while the bigger kids are at school. We sit down and watch a DVD or some TV, or read a book. We try and have at least an hour every couple of days that we can do that and relax. We still have the two youngest ones at home though, which often makes that time less quiet than we would wish.

It must very awkward when you first meet the child who requires your support? And it must be difficult to say goodbye when the child eventually leaves your care?

Because we have Mr M, who is now 12, autistic and generally very noisy, our usual case workers talk to the kids before they get here and tell them about him. If we have kids from somewhere else – or new/different caseworkers, they don't tell kids about Mr M and there is usually 50 million questions about why he does this and why he does that. There is also our other kids who love having new kids to play with, so the new kids are swamped with requests to play and that usually takes care of the awkwardness initially. It is sad when they go, but most of the time we are sure they are going to a good home/carer, so that's good.

 

"Without Erin, I would not be a foster carer, without Erin, I would be bankrupt and probably living with my parents."

 

No doubt those first few days or weeks of care are extremely demanding, how does this impact your own family? Do your kids find it difficult when there's suddenly other kids competing for your time and attention?

Our kids seem to all pull together and help, at least for the first few days while the novelty remains. Our oldest girl (at home) Ms A, is a wonderful helper and she does heaps to make the new kids feel welcome. Our kids are fairly independent, apart from Mr E (who is still breastfed mostly) and they share in the role of giving the new kids attention and love.

You mentioned you have a house full of toys...kids don't always like to share toys...

New toys we don't make our kids share – birthday presents and the like – but all our old toys are fair game for anyone. The new kids often do not come with anything but a bag of clothes, and maybe a teddy. Having a large amount of toys helps these kids fit in and learn valuable socializing skills.

How has the ever-changing social dynamics at home impacted your kids? I.e. has it shaped their personalities in any way, are they more patient than the average kid their own age...etc?

Our kids are generally very patient with new kids, have great compassion and, I think, have a real understanding of what it would be like to be taken away from their family.

Erin obviously is just as involved as you with the respite care. If we were to launch the TackleNappy Mum of the Year Award, I think Erin would be favourite to take the prize (if you nominate her of course!).

Without Erin, I would not be a foster carer, without Erin, I would be bankrupt and probably living with my parents. I would definitely nominate Erin as Mother of the Year.

Lee, how on earth do you get time to yourself, to relax? When was the last time you had a holiday?

I occasionally go to Perth for medical appointments and my church has a Mens Fishing Camp that happens once a year. Other than that, I occasionally retreat to my shed, but I am usually followed by a little person.

 

On Fatherhood....

Tell us a little about your family.

We have seven kids – (two are foster kids) one who lives in Perth and the rest live at home. The ages range from 19 to 18 months. I have three genetic kids – all boys.

Has your line of work influenced what you do as a father?

Before I met Erin, as mentioned earlier, I was a children's photographer working for a company similar to Pixie Photo. Since moving to our small town I have had numerous jobs, from mail delivery driver to a laborer at a seed cleaning facility. I don't think any of those jobs have particularly influenced me, other than for an intense dislike of working with oats...they are very itchy beasties.

When Erin fell pregnant with your first little person, what was the craziest advice you received from others?

I honestly cannot remember any crazy advice, Erin's mother was a midwife before she had kids, so our conversations around the dinner table were fairly earthy. I read all the pregnancy books I could find, pestered Erin and her mother for details and generally made a pain of myself.

Kid A resembled a frog in our first ultrasound picture so we affectionately called her Froggy. Did you have a name for your kids whilst they were still in the womb?

Not really, until we decided on a name and knew the sex, bub was bub.

 

"I would say that it is important for fathers and sons to have special times together. Building Lego, fishing, camping, reading stories together and so on."

 

What one word best describes how you felt when you became a father for the first time?

Am I allowed to find a thesaurus? Terrified.

Have you considered having more kids? Why/why not?

We would like more kids, but they will be foster kids. Erin had some complications last pregnancy which scared us both. Unless we were blessed with an accident, we will not be having any more kids.

Did you select Christian or Middle names for a special reason?

Our kids, except for the oldest, have 3 names plus surname. Some are biblical, others are family related, all are special.

What Nursery Rhyme keeps getting stuck in your head?

Right at the moment, it's the title music from MacGyver. We bought the box set recently so we could watch something relatively interesting for family time. I know that's not a nursery rhyme, but we don't seem to do a lot of nursery rhymes.

Which children's book do you secretly like to read (mine's The Grufallo)?

Anything by Jackie French. Diary of a wombat is my favorite.

Private or Public? Which would you recommend to an expecting parent and why?

It depends on where you are. Where we are, the maternity ward in the public hospital is new and fresh (for want of a better word) and it's not particularly busy, so the level of care is equivalent to private hospital anyway. We also have private health cover, but don't use it a lot.

Sleep - any tips on how to get little ones to sleep and how to get enough sleep yourself?

Um, when you work it out, tell us? For the most part, Erin breastfeeds and we co-sleep so bub is in with us. I will admit to not being a morning person and Erin gets up with the kids in the morning letting me sleep in a bit.

Could you tell us a little about your parents and siblings?

I have 2 brothers, both younger, and Mum and Dad – who have been married about 38 years.

Thinking back to your childhood, what are your strongest and fondest memories of your own father?

Going fishing off the rocks at Greenough (near Geraldton, WA) and catching my first tailor. Was awesome!

And your mother, what are your strongest and fondest memories?

Cuddles in the morning.

If I asked this same question of your kids in 30 years time, what response would you hope for? What response do you think I'd get?

I'd hope they respond favorably, and that I have shared some of my experience with them.

And growing up with brothers and sisters? Strongest memories?

Brothers are annoying, but I love them.

 

To Finish Up...

As a father, what's the best advice you can give other fathers?

The first bit of advice would be that babies are tougher than you think, it's good to throw them around gently and lovingly. They learn to trust you and that is great. The other thing is to pick a method of discipline – like 1,2,3, Magic - and stick with it. Kids need rules, routine and consequences to grow and learn.

As a son, what's the best advice you can give to your kids regarding maintaining a strong relationship with their father?

I would say that it is important for fathers and sons to have special times together. Building Lego, fishing, camping, reading stories together and so on.

Do you have anything else regarding being a father that you would like to share with TackleNappy?

Be yourself, love your kids and wives/partners. Cry in front of your sons and daughters. Don't sweat the small stuff and finally, talk to your wife/partner about your feelings/emotions.

If our readers would like more information about you, where do they go?

I can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

You've already written for TackleNappy. We'd love for you to write for us again. What do you think?

I am in the process of writing a post on foster caring, which I will share with TN once it's finished. It'll probably be next year at the rate I am going.

 

"I'm the most chronically disorganised and lazy person you could meet."

 

Lee, I'd like to finish with a quote you left me last time we spoke (above) and reassure you that with your selfless dedication to those in need, you have well and truly tipped the scales in your favour.

Thanks, I have enjoyed answering your questions and letting people know a little bit about our crazy life.

 

Read more about the TackleNappy Dad of the Year Award here.

Last modified on Thursday, 06 December 2012 12:03
Bucky

Bucky is a proud triple dad to three girls aged eight and under (Bookworm, Foghorn and Boo). He left the full time corporate world in late 2012 and he's not sure whether he's a SAHD or a WAHD, but either way he's spenidng more time at home with his family. Once upon a time Bucky played guitar for a garage band, now he can only play nursery rhymes.

Bucky would like to be an official chocolate, beer and scotch tester - please contact him here if you can help with this.Aussie Daddy Blogger Member

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Website: www.tacklenappy.com/dads-diaries/buckys-trophy-cabinet

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