Is there any greater transformative power than that of being a parent?
People can be transformed when they find God. They can go from being sinners to saints in a baptismal heartbeat but let's face it, there is plenty of cynicism about such transformation.
Despite the fact there are thousands upon thousands of late-in-life Christian converts, rank and file Kiwis look upon them with some suspicion.
It is considered less than sincere, associated with cult-like behaviour and treated as untrustworthy.
Similarly the reformed drug addict or alcoholic is generally greeted with a healthy dose of judgment about their long-term prospects.
Often displaying behaviours similar to the religiously born-again there is general tolerance for the newly "straight" addict but it does not convert into confidence that these lives are genuinely transformed for the long term.
Most are suspicious of an ulterior motive and desperation to be seen as committing to change purely due to legal pressures.
This lack of faith in the power to convert deeply ingrained personality traits and dysfunctional behaviours also extends to the New Year resolution brigade declaring their intent to stop this, that and the next thing, and to diet until a healthy body is achieved.
A couple of years ago my brother-in-law and I were on the end of a particularly bizarre tirade of health advice from a drunken uncle at Christmas.
He was observing our greater than optimum weight and advising us to consider our health status. Anyway, the brother-in-law and I were generally unreceptive because it was coming from a guy who had lost a lot of weight only because of the stroke he suffered and the impairment he now had to bear.
A zealot for healthy living only after a lifetime of unhealthy living is hard to swallow.
The idea of genuine, long- term sustainable change is generally received with support but reserved caution as to whether it is achievable, the only exception being when you become a parent.
Then everyone is gleefully lining up to let you know how different your life is going to be. They simply cannot wait to tell you about all of the things you are going to have to give up and stop enjoying now that you are a parent.
In fact the prospective parent's joyful predictions about how they might live their lives post-baby are met with wry smiles and sardonic smirks. A knowing brigade of seasoned parents already have the jump on these greenhorns and the one thing they know is that new parents are up for change and plenty of it.
And if they don't embrace that change then they will fail, potentially taking several other futures with them.
Nights out, long dinners, spontaneous holidays, self indulgence in general, sleeping in, shopping without embarrassing moments, a relaxed home environment where people don't shout before 9am, basically thinking about yourself before others, is all out the window once the delightful kiddiwinks come along.
I make these observations during a period that my partner is absent and I am the sole caregiver for our three kids aged two, five and six.
What has struck me is what I am prepared to do now and what I am happy to give up for the benefit of my whanau is in stark contrast to what I would have changed for anybody or any reason five short years ago.
I have no doubt this is a universal phenomenon.
A quick study of Maori lullabies often composed by the most bloodthirsty of warrior chiefs exposes a deeply seated vision for the future of their children. The songs are a compassionate statement, that display empathy and are full of hope for their offspring.
Of course, there is the scumbag element of parenting that refuse to abandon any of their own pleasures or compromise their lifestyle for the healthy development of their kids but they are in the minority.
Most New Zealanders are utterly dumbfounded when there is yet another selfish or violent episode between parent and child.
Learning that children have been left in cars for hours on end while parents drink or gamble is perplexing and when the callous violence leads to murder we are genuinely outraged.
That is because for the majority of us, the arrival of parenthood is genuinely transformational. In fact, there is nothing else, apart from the introduction of children into your life, that makes such a dramatic series of changes to your life over such a short space of time.
Being prepared to sacrifice your pleasures to handle half-masticated food, poo and wee, and to realign all your priorities to secure the safety of your children's future, is the ultimate return on investment.
How heartbroken must a mother like Olwen Horan have to have been to change her son's bequest in her will on her deathbed?
- © Fairfax NZ News