OPINION: Dads need to be free to openly love their kids

I HAVE a photograph of my daughter's first shower.

She is less than one week old, kinda pink-ish and her bright blue eyes are too big for her head, and that's saying something because she inherited her dad's enormous skull.

In the photo she looks completely vulnerable and utterly trusting.

Journalist Owen Jacques holding his daughter during her first shower.
Journalist Owen Jacques holding his daughter during her first shower. Contributed


She's in a new place, surrounded by a new sensation created by the luke-warm water flowing from a showerhead.

But she's OK.

She's OK because I'm holding her.

She's OK because although her lifespan can't yet be counted in weeks, she knows that she is safest when she is held by her mum or by me, her dad.

Her mum, my wife, is holding the camera less than a metre away.

It captures the moment that I truly realised that I was responsible for this tiny human. A squishy clump of blood and skin and eyeballs that I would now protect at all costs.

It is the purest form of love that I have experienced. It comes in a volume matched only by the love I have for my wife and my immediate family. The kind of love that is without question or doubt.

I thought hard before I shared the photo beyond my circle of close friends and family. And it's for a silly reason that I would have kept such a treasured image to myself.

I didn't want the innocence of that photo to be tarnished by morons, by the quick-to-judge or by the pockets in our community who want to spread fear.


Thomas Whitten and his wife probably thought the same, and perhaps they felt that love overcomes such petty concerns.

And maybe it does.

The photo of Thomas holding his young and sickly son - both naked in the shower - is everywhere now.

Facebook has taken it down from its social media pages then reinstated it.

Most of us saw it for what it was: a moving image of a dad with his son, doing his best to act as his guardian.

The boy was afflicted with salmonella poisoning and the vomiting and diarrhea that comes with it. He would end up needing hospital care, but at this moment, his dad was helping.

Of course there were those who saw something sexual, something evil or abusive. A naked man is holding a naked child. That cannot be OK, can it?.

One wrote it was a "disgusting lack of boundaries", others said it evoked memories of their own abuse.

A supporter said "the only thing inappropriate about this picture is the way people are twisting it in their own heads".

Facebook told the BBC they are now leaving the image alone, although some still demand it be purged.

In December, a Danish comedian was labelled a paedophile by some after he shared a photo of him bathing with his two-year-old girl. It's ridiculous.

Torben Chris shared the image of him bathing with his two-year-old daughter last year.
Torben Chris shared the image of him bathing with his two-year-old daughter last year. Contributed

Children need love. They need it from their fathers, grandfathers and uncles. They need it from the men they look up to, believe in, and they need it uninhibited and without asterisks.

Since the photo was picked up by the world in May, there hasn't been a rush of high-profile dads sharing a moment with their children while nude.

And it's not the father who has spoken back about the storm that grew from the nakedness of his family. I wonder why.

In the 10 months since I became a father, I've never once given a damn when playing with my daughter. Whether in public or private. I don't imagine anyone cares, why would they?

But when any dad - perhaps one more self-conscious than I - reads these stories and reconsiders how they play, comfort or love their child, it is the child that loses.

They need us. Almost as much as we need them.

What none of us need is a stigma.


Owen Jacques is a journalist. You can follow him on Facebook