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Dads with a difference

  • NicolaInterestingFathersJordyRosenberg2
This Sunday is Father’s Day – a day that celebrates the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Jun 14, 2018

The SA Jewish Report spoke to three dads with a difference who are doing things in a unique way.

Jose Ribeiro

When Daniel Ribeiro stood under the chuppah at his wedding in January this year, he wouldn’t let go of his father’s hand. It was the ultimate display of a son’s love and respect. When he was six years old, his dad, Jose, was involved in a road accident that changed the family forever. On Lag B’ Omer on 11 May 2001, Jose’s car rolled after he was pushed off the road on the N1 Polokwane highway. He woke up to the news that he had broken his neck, and was a quadriplegic. His youngest child was only four months old.

In the blink of an eye, his wife Tracey had to deal with a baby, three other young children, and a husband battling for survival, confined to a wheelchair for life.

The past 17 years have been a journey of recovery, inner strength, and love, in which hope triumphed over fear. Their deep faith, together with the unwavering support of a community, enabled the Ribeiro family to reconstruct their life.

Jose insists the Ribeiros are “just your average, normal family”. He goes to shul and work every day, and the family eats dinner together every night.

“We are more normal than 90% of the families out there,” he said. “The only difference is that I’m in a wheelchair. Other than that, we are a very close, loving family which enjoys doing things together.”

From the start of his recovery, he and his wife made it their “mission to carry on”; to make every effort to “maintain peace in the home” and to “always put the children first”.

“It’s not about us. It’s about the children,” he said, recalling earlier years when he was on hand to help with homework. “I may not have been able to pick them up, but I was always around.” With the couple’s shared faith and strong belief that “things happen for a reason”, they were able to “make things work, no matter what”.

“We put the chair in the car, and we just carried on. I accepted from the outset that this was part of a plan and that it was all for the good, because there can be no other explanation,” he said.

Joel Harris

Father of two, Joel Harris, insists that the only normal thing in this world “is the setting on your washing machine”.

A Johannesburg-based estate agent and life coach, Harris divorced his ex-wife Jody 14 years ago, but insists that she remains his “soul mate”.

They continue to live on the same road, a block away from each other, she with her fiancé, and he with his life partner Dr Gareth Lorge.

“We are best friends. I even offered to be her flower girl,” he said jokingly.

Together they have a son, Jordan, 21, and a daughter Demi-Lee, 18, who they are both devoted to.

Harris, a hands-on dad from day one, has steadfastly “lived his truth” since divorcing his wife and coming out. “We told the children the truth from the beginning. There is no point in hiding something. It only causes problems down the line.

“Irrespective of the initial challenges, we placed peace and serenity first, and thankfully, our kids have turned out pretty ok, pretty stable,” he said.

“I tell my kids they have three dads and a mom, and they are ok with that. I actually think they like Gareth better than me,” he quipped.

Maintaining a presence in his children’s lives and being honest with them have been parenting tools for as long as he can remember.

“I always tell my kids that if someone has something nasty to say, keep silent, and ask yourself: Are they worth responding to?”

“My advice is to give oxygen only to the ones that matter. Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter. This seems to have worked well.”

Jordy Rosenberg

Stay-at-home dad, Jordy Rosenberg, is the go-to guy at school. His car boot is like Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag, containing everything from ointments for stings, plasters for scraped knees, and food for hungry tummies. Rosenberg is man enough to pull off a full-time dad position, the envy of many moms in the parking lot who often bemoan their less-than-perfect partners.

Rosenberg and his wife Wendy, an attorney, swopped traditional parenting roles when they became parents seven years ago, and they have never looked back.

For the sake of their two precious sons, Michael, 7 and Daniel, 2, the couple, who refer to themselves as “Team Rosenberg”, took a joint parenting and financial decision. This meant that one of them would stay home with the kids while the other one would go off to work. In this case, photographer dad chose domestic chaos over the rat race, while attorney Wendy went out and brought home the macon.

Rosenberg has taken the challenge to the next level. He heads up security at Sandton Sinai School, and is always the first to be added to class chats and the moms’ WhatsApp groups.

“He is one of the moms,” said one of the moms who wishes to remain anonymous.

Wendy describes him as “a wonderful dad. He’s an everything dad”.

“He enables me to do the things I need to do, and he makes it possible for me to be more present for the kids when I am around because he is so good at what he does.”

She maintains that even if more men stayed at home, many would refuse to do certain tasks which her husband does as a matter of course.

She recalls the time he packed her suitcase for her when she was running late to catch a flight.

“I could jet off while he kept things together at home,” she said.

For Jordy, staying at home means managing everything from shopping to chauffeuring the kids around in the afternoons. He plans and prepares meals, runs errands, and most importantly looks after the couple’s children.

“Wendy and I have both made sacrifices. I get to spend more time with the kids at the expense of my career as a photographer, and she gets to spend more time at work at the expense of spending more time with the kids.”

“It comes at a cost, but we make it work,” they say.

There were some challenges in the beginning, Jordy says, like the typical gender stereotyping, sniggers, and judgemental stares, but he has found a home at Sandton Sinai where parents are broadminded and accepting.

He remembers the time when he was kicked out of a mom and baby group because some breastfeeding moms felt uncomfortable having a man around.

He loves the fact that he gets to be around for all those special moments like the first steps, or the first soccer goal. He is very aware that it is hard for his wife to miss these moments.

The advantage of being a stay-at-home dad, he says, are “If you are lucky enough, you get to have the support of a brilliant mom and wife to make your life easier.”

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