Bandit, Brumm, and the Emotionally Available Dad

If you’ve been living under a rock you may not have heard of the children’s television show that has taken Australia by storm. The animated series, Bluey, burst onto our screens in October 2018 and its popularity continues to swell.

There are a number of theories as to why this show is so popular. Yes, it is relatable, and realistic. The episode ‘Shops’ (Episode 23, Season 1) is a standout for its depiction of the different ways in which boys and girls approach play, and it is those inherent biological gender differences which create the tension in the episode. 

Says show creator Joe Brumm, in a feature published in the Independent: “I learned more and more about play, and then … that became the bulk of the show – really just those sort of role-playing, imaginative games that kids four to six play.”

Whilst he might maintain that he is not trying to ‘teach’ anything it is clear that Brumm – and the team around him – have an excellent understanding of the dynamics of children, their play, and the integral relationships in their lives. The majority of episodes feature play, particularly role play, which lead to hilarious conclusions, often with a life lesson thrown in for good measure.

One thing Brumm was clear upon, was that the show would not repeat the dynamic of the Peppa Pig patriarch, Daddy Pig, who is more often than not the punchline of the humour. This phenomenon of the dad bashing humour has long been a feature in comedy, both child and adult. The hapless father figure is an easy gag for laughs though not a great example of parenting. 

Bandit Heeler, however entertaining he may be, is not the butt of all jokes. He is hilarious for sure, but he is also a present and emotionally available father.

“Bandit’s more of the sort of idealistic, in a lot of ways, dad – whereas Stripe is probably more accurate with my actual fathering.” Says Brumm.

And whilst it might be the case that Bandit is an example of ‘aspirational’ parenting, there is no doubt that he resonates. Emotional availability in men, especially husbands and fathers, as life gets tougher can be hard to countenance.

In fact, for many men, becoming emotionally unavailable is a protective, some might say defensive, mechanism to prevent them from being mired in negative moods and behaviour. In order to cope with external stressors they wall off their emotions, but in so doing, limit their capacity to be emotionally available to those around them, including loved ones. They are trying to fix an issue but end up creating another one that, if left unchecked, can cause breakdowns in their core relationships.

‘For most men, being emotionally available is not just about sharing his emotions; it is about his openness with another person and himself. It’s about where he is at in this moment emotionally and staying with that discomfort, instead of running or presenting it as fixed, resolved or all sorted out.’ [ What being emotionally unavailable means (and why men do it)]

A key part of healthy relationships is being open to the other. This openness, in a safe and healthy relational environment, creates a healthy vulnerability that is necessary for connection and mutuality. 

It might be harder for men, in general, to allow themselves to willingly admit they’re fragile or vulnerable in this space, but they need to realise that this fragility does not mean that they are weak! In fact, being open with our spouses and children, friends and loved ones, is a sign of emotional maturity and strength. It also ensures that we are fortifying our relationships with the key people in our lives so that when storms come – and they will come – we will be able to ride them out secure in the love and support of those around us. A burden shared is a burden halved.

Bandit – and more so Brumm – get it. And it might just be time for others to ‘get it’ too.

This is Bandit Heeler. He is an emotionally available husband and father who allows himself to be open to his wife and children. Although he is aware that this may leave him vulnerable to negative emotions or experiences in the future, he is willing to take that risk and seek the good of his loved ones. 

Be like Bandit. 

By Emily Shaw

Emily is a former ACPA award winning magazine editor. Emily shares 15 years of marriage with her husband, Ben, and is now stay at home mum of seven and freelance journalist. Emily’s work has been featured in a variety of media internationally, writing on all things faith, parenting and craft. She brings close to 20 years of experience in media — print, online and social — as well as several years in active youth ministry including three years as the Diocesan Coordinator.

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