Your first reaction when you found out you were going to be a Dad?
Pretty excited, and huge relief to be honest. Ethan was literally a miracle baby. My wife has always suffered endometriosis and we had been told a couple of years earlier to expect a 0-2% chance of ever having a child. So after 2 years of endless surgery, a bus load of ‘specialists’ and finally IVF, we were both absolutely beaming when we found out.
How was the experience of the birth from your perspective as an on-looker?
Brutal ! The doctor I had met a few times, but the rest of the crew were professional surgery crew on standby, and I found them rather impersonal and invasive- it wasn't what I expected! They asked if I wanted a photo in the operating theatre – for god’s sake people! It’s not a tourist attraction, my memory will serve me just fine thanks.
Ethan was delivered via caesarean and then Julie had an additional hour of surgery – so it was a mad rush to get him out and get on with surgery. He came out (literally pulled) and his arms opened out like a bit of a ‘Hello Everyone – I am here’, we snuggled him up to Julie but only briefly, before we were whisked away so they could put her under.
Ethan and I sat in the nursery for about 2 hours – just on a chair - me just holding him, him staring at me and sort of grunting (as you do when you unexpectedly arrive). After a couple of hours I left the nursery to go and find Julie as I was getting a bit worried – no one has any answers in a hospital. After about 30 minutes of dealing with just plain hapless nurses, a really staunch (and very senior) midwife took pity on our situation and slapped back a couple of the nurses for being insensitive. Seconds later,Julie and I were reunited and that’s the point I knew everything was going to be OK. Julie was beaming, Ethan was calm and we all just knew we'd made it.
Describe the feelings from those first few days at home with a new baby...
Apart from how excited we were, we were pretty unprepared, due to a complication with the pregnancy. Julie got taken into hospital for the final two weeks of the pregnancy ‘just to be sure’ and that left a mad scramble for me. Being home was just fabulous, an escape from the world and everything in it – Ethan was just perfect - funny how I can’t remember him ever crying! I’m sure he did, but we were both so relieved and happy. I spent most evenings with Ethan asleep on my chest reclined on the couch.
What Fatherhood has taught you?
Lots and lots and lots…. the big ticket items - love unconditionally, forgive everyone and don’t wait. I think for me fatherhood has been a real journey to question all of my beliefs, including what I thought about my parents, siblings and their actions. It’s amazing how simple, vulnerable and misguided my parents were, when I thought they knew everything.
I finally stopped thinking people don't try very hard and started thinking about how harsh the world is on everyone for instilling the belief that we should all be this or that. If you look at everyone as a child, and imagine how they would have been at kindergarten, it strips away your expectations and reveals who they are. This is much easier place to start.
What is the most challenging part of being a Father so far?
First incident was a near loss of my wife. Ethan was only 2 and she went in for an operation that went wrong. They worked it out over a seven hour operation, but it really scared the hell out of me and the pain it caused Ethan was evident. When he saw his mum in recovery, he started crying hysterically as he knew something was wrong. That was a challenge and I’d throw it all away today to make sure we don’t go there again.
Day-to-day it’s all about being present. Sometimes work is demanding, or people are selfish with my time, and I miss or if I’m offhand about something small, this will leave me feeling low. We make time as a family to build Lego, tell fart jokes, play cards and teach each other magic tricks. Reading practice is my favourite, as I love hearing Ethan’s voice as he interprets the words. I have recordings of him at 18 months telling me stories about what he did today and we often listen to them and laugh. I’m sure there will be more challenges, but it’s all about making time and enjoying the time you get together.
What is the most rewarding part of becoming a Father?
Finally understanding that there isn't anything too big or important out there that can't be fixed somehow. Being free of limits. I think being a father, while challenging in every way, is a reassurance that life is important no matter where, how, what or why you are doing or being.
What was your life like before you were a Father?
Busy – real busy. I think that hasn’t changed much, I drink way too much coffee, exercise a lot and have a extraordinarily long list of hobbies that I can’t keep up with. Looking back I don’t think I miss the changes. Fatherhood isn’t a chore for me it’s a great game with no rules. But I don’t miss anything, nor feel like am missing anything.
What does having kids make you think differently about?
People with other kids and how they cope or don’t. I’m starting to think there are two types of parents – people who cope and people who don’t. Those who don’t always blow my mind! A three hour plane flight and you didn’t think to bring a snack, book, toy or some colouring pens?!…. Amateur! Here help yourself to our stash.
People who talk over their children or kids that talk over their parents. We all have it way too easy and taking time to treat your children like humans isn’t hard or even time consuming, so when I come across people who treat parenthood like some chore they have to do, that they got stuck with… well - don’t get me started!
How did you come to be running a coffee roastery?
Good question, I was weened on coffee at 18 months by my Dutch Grandmother who didn’t believe it was healthy to have breast milk (or speak English), she forced my mother to switch me to black coffee with sugar.
I guess you could say that came back to haunt me when I got into cafes in 2002. Main reason for moving back into hospitality was the corporate trudge. I didn’t need to work anymore, I had a lot of little projects I wanted to have a crack at and my wife was one of those people who was very practical – should we open a café ? – yeah sounds good to me…. and so we did.
Three cafes later we decided roasting our own coffee was going to be a lot more rewarding than having a coffee supplier who couldn’t/wouldn’t produce what we were after – oh yes – little did we know… and so when we accidentally bought an old derelict building in Brunswick and we thought we’d give it a shot.
My initial business partner turned out to be pretty scary and that ended badly but it was just a brief distraction and a lesson in the end.
Roasting was a bit of a grey area back then and finding anything or anyone who had actual knowledge was hard. There is a difference between people who know what they are doing and people who tell you they know what they are doing. So it was a great journey of reading, experimenting and just slowly building a knowledge. I had some great people to share it with – all of them still in the business today and that made it.
We’ve always pushed to have great staff ahead of a great business and I think that’s why it works so well for us. Even on a bad day it’s a great day.
You’ve recently relocated to Noosa. How has that experience been for you and your family and what was the motivation behind it?
Motivation – the cold. No the real reason is a very tightly held secret. One day on a drive to Canberra from Melbourne in 2006,Julie and I wrote a list of things that we wanted to do with our lives, sort of a bucket list but for lifestyle. Julie wrote her list and then we swapped driving and I wrote mine. Then we stopped for a coffee and compared. And it went something like this….
Live in a shack on the beach
Get a Dog
Write a Cook Book (Julie)
Have a big old shed to build stuff in
Finish my pilots license (Me)
Going back to what Fatherhood taught me – don’t wait. While a move like this will never be great timing – we have a lot going on in Melbourne with Padre Coffee - it’s also perfectly timed as our team all own part of the business and run it very well, so it has worked out from that point of view and now we’re opening in Noosa. It’s a good local expansion.
From a family perspective we couldn’t be happier. There's a gate at the bottom of the garden that goes out over the sand dunes to the beach, our little lemon beagle puppy (Wilson) is happily chasing tree frogs and Ethan is settling well into school and learning to surf. I’m flying again out of Rainbow Beach and Julie is writing her second cook book. We are working on getting a new shed….
How do you balance running a business and family?
How? You can’t. Balance is such a far off ideal I can’t even start to imagine. My rule is to put your heart and soul into everything you do, no matter how much or little time you spend at it. I think success is all about being present when you are doing something.
Very early on Julie and her mother used to tell me I worked too much – really ? – state the obvious folks! The issue wasn’t time, it was forcing time when you did have it. It’s much more important to just spend time and enjoy it, than to try and be someone on-call. No one is keeping a tally – nor should they- ten minutes of quality time can be worth more than years of being ignored.
What do you think is behind the seemingly universal appeal of coffee and cafes?
Our culture dictates their appeal, especially Melbourne as the weather promotes indoor activities for ¾ of the year. But basically my philosophy is that we are all very interested in other people. Cafes these days are all about welcoming strangers into your ‘house’.
Add to that - cafes are very safe environments (no drunks or big loud groups) and coffee will only help people talk to any and everyone who will listen. How many times have you spoken to a stranger in a café versus on a tram?
Cafes are a conduit to our culture and society, a meeting point to discuss the absurd, inane or the news of the day and coffee is the fuel. I think it’s simply a nice safe social environment and it doesn’t involve as much ceremony as a restaurant, so more of us are involved.
Many times we’ve had people having a chat to complete strangers while waiting for a coffee and they turn out to be neighbours or in the same gym class. It’s a real ice breaker for a community. Hence the attraction perhaps…
What are three things everyone should be looking for in good cup of coffee?
Flavour, Flavour and the other one – Flavour. Coffee is essentially a poison, we know this because if we drink enough we’ll get sick. Roasting and preparing it gives us a drinkable, albeit caffeinated, beverage that tastes amazing but enjoyment is in the flavour.
I could say a balance of tannic and citronic acids, gently softened by protein based sweetners developed in the last few minutes of a roast, the lack of woody or bitter flavours showcases the skills all the way from the grower to the roaster, through to the barista, but that would just be complicating it!
As a parent and as a cafe owner, how do you handle the issue of kids in busy cafes?
It’s all about staff engaging and treating the children as grown ups and not grown up grown ups, I just mean slightly older than they are. Kids love it, parents love it, staff love it and the kids act and respect the café more. Sure they may be a little loud or make a mess but that’s what we all did when we were younger. Sometimes you get the odd exception – but in most cases that’s not a child who is to blame for that.
What perspective on people and life have you gained from working in cafes, that you’d want to pass onto your kids?
Compassion, work ethic and I’ll have a conversation about anything with anyone and I feel like I’m a lot more connected and better off for it.
What are your strongest memories of your Dad?
Tobacco and sawdust, and the way he smells. I knocked my head open on a slide in a playground when I was 4 and had his singlet wrapped around my head for the trip to the hospital. I’ll always remember that trip but the smell of his singlet is the strongest memory. We used to see him once a week so I kind of ruined that outing.
Do you think he did a good job?
No, he was absent through no fault of his own. Here comes the forgive part – my mother and father were both very selfish people and divorced soon after I hit 18 months, partly due to a culture clash, partly due to the fact that they hated each other. My mother has a background of schizophrenia in her family. She isn’t herself I don’t think but she has always been paranoid about it. My father is Dutch – ‘Hallo ! What is up with you ?!!’. I can’t imagine how anyone would have thought that would ever work. In a way the best thing he ever did was show some kindness and compassion when he could, but not being around he missed it all. I’m a product of many different role models as a result and his influence is minimal.
What was the best thing he ever taught you?
How to swing a hammer. He’s been a builder for 40 years and a damn fine craftsman. When I was old enough to hold a hammer he taught me how to swing it. It sounds simple but even today I still show people how to swing a hammer. The swinging hammer isn’t the point, teaching someone with patience is. I guess he taught me that believing someone can do something is more important in teaching them, than them thinking they can.
Over the last few years, I’ve taught baristas, roasters, countless staff and managers, shown staff how to wire up an ethernet cable and diagnose a problematic thermostat. It all comes back that memory and I guess that idea – yes you can, just have a go, adjust it a little – there you go you’ve got it now.
As a Father, what do you see your biggest challenge ahead?
Keeping up. I’d like to be part of my sons life more than anything and if it’s just to congratulate him or teach him how to swing a hammer then so be it, but I think he’s going to want to fly, dive, climb, date girls, surf, fix an old car, get motorcycle license – and I want to be able to keep up and grow with him. Hopefully he’ll have kids and we get a second shot as Grandparents, but I think it’s going to be all about keeping up and being around and getting involved.
What are the key things you want or hope for, for your kids?
Main thing is to find someone he loves, secondly and probably just as important – perspective. I know from experience myself it’s hard to get perspective sometimes and it can lead to wasted years.
What do you think of Fathers today?
Tough one. I think it’s remarkable how varied and different parenting can result in little to no effect on a child. I know from my father that there are no rules to parenting, so it’s a tough question. I think generally fathers today have it a lot tougher as we pay higher taxes, live and work at remarkable speeds and have so much more technology and invasive expectations that it’s a difficult job. Everyone seems to make it work. The fathers I know all have different approaches and, like anything in life, you glean tidbits of why some things work better and some don’t.
What do you think is the most important thing every Dad should aim to achieve?
I think being present and active in your family’s life. The world is a wonderful, crazy and sometimes harsh place and in my eyes your Dad should always be there to make it all easier and help you out. Whether it’s advice, a hug, a cup of coffee and a game of chess or simply showing up to help with your broken down car and sympathise with you even though he told you not to buy it in the first place. I think I’m more confused than ever about what I should be aiming for now that I am a father, compared to when I wasn’t. But hey – that’s life.
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