Charlie and I

How Our Journey Started

  

Little Charlie, 4, was going to be the only student without a parent backstage for her ballet concert until her dad came to the rescue.

Michael is used to stepping into what is deemed the more female roles of parenting – like doing his little girl’s hair and offering his face for a beauty makeover.

The personal trainer and his four-year-old daughter even watch Youtube tutorials together to learn new hairstyles.

So when young Charlie was preparing for her ballet concert the single dad was looking forward to getting her ready for the performance.


But Charlie’s dance school, Parkwood Dance Academy, had strict guidelines for the ‘Tiny Dancer’ concert scheduled for November 20, with no males allowed backstage or in the dressing rooms.

The rules governing the concert also singled out mothers for inclusion, but made no mention of fathers.


The information booklet for the concert recommends “mothers” wait for the child during rehearsals on October 23 and November 13, and “mothers will be able to watch portions” of the rehearsal on November 18.


There is also a special “Mummy and Me” ticket offer.

Michael felt gutted, and admitted the thought of Charlie backstage by herself brought tears to his eyes.

Michael, 54, understands issues with child protection, and admits he is the “only bloke” at ballet but felt unfairly excluded. He approached one of the school’s teachers to ensure he could help his daughter behind the scenes at the concert.

But after raising the issue, he was told to find an alternative. It was suggested he bring Charlie to the backstage door and staff would then look after her.

“They asked if Charlie had an aunty or grandma who could take her, I said she’s got them, but I wanted to be there. They offered to section off an area for me and Charlie,” he tells Kidspot.

Because the conversation was happening in front of Charlie, he decided to discuss it later.

In an email to staff, obtained by Kidspot, Michael informed the school that he was the sole carer of his daughter for more than two years and hoped to come to a solution that wouldn’t harm Charlie.


Michael's email reads;

“I'm writing in the hope that between us we can come up with a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of myself not being allowed as a "male" backstage at the end of year concert.

“I'm not sure if you're aware of our situation but it's just Charlie and I in our wonderful little family with Charlie having had no contact with her mother for over two years.


“While Charlie has constant hurdles and reminders of the fact that our family situation is different from that of her peers I try my hardest to minimise the potential harm it may do to her emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.


“So hopefully you can appreciate my concern that the potential of the blanket ban on fathers being allowed backstage may have on Charlie feeling somewhat different as she would be the only child without the opportunity to share their excitement and nervousness with a parent.

"Surely the use of some sort of modesty screens being available or even the other parents being made aware beforehand, because of the wonderful diversity of modern families it's not fair or possible to impose an unfair and arbitrary ban on families that don't fit the stereotypical definition of a family?


"I look forward to working with you to come up with a plan to make this another amazing opportunity for Charlie and the other students to shine.”.


The ban was lifted last Thursday after a meeting with academy staff.

“It’s an arbitrary ban. The school was really good after I sent the email. Next year I won’t be allowed, because Charlie is older, but then all parents aren’t allowed backstage, so that is perfectly fine.”


Michael said most women were supportive of him, but there was sometimes an unconscious bias towards him as a father.


“Women are mostly supportive, but some say patronising things, like how do you manage? It’s just the same as any single parent," he says.

“I always try to go to Mother’s Day things, I’ll go get my nails and makeup done so she doesn’t miss out. We practice hairstyles and learn different braids, it’s not that hard."