Old (Matt) Mcdonald Loves to Play!
After a severe work injury, Matt Mcdonald had to relearn to speak and to walk. Then, when he became a dad, he discovered Playcentre – and has been playing and learning alongside his daughter ever since.
By Kate Barber
Eighteen years ago a terrible work accident left Matt Mcdonald in a coma. His long road to recovery involved relearning how to swallow, speak and walk.
Fifteen years ago, Matt met Trudy – a woman ‘far more special than I deserve’, he says. They have been married for ten years.
Welcoming a daughter into the world was like starting again – again – for Matt. This time in his parenting role. Trudy is a teacher and also owns a performing arts business, Tru Talent, so Matt is Portia-Rose’s primary carer. It is a role he loves. Due to the severity of his injury, he is supported in this role by a care agency.
Not a person to isolate himself from the world, Matt and Portia-Rose made their Playcentre debuts at Woolston when she was 9 weeks old. ‘I like getting out and meeting other mums and dads. I always wanted to get involved’, he says.
Phoning Matt to talk about Playcentre, the call is picked up by a clearly-spoken, confident 20-month-old. Then mum gets on the line. In the background the sounds of wild joy escalate. ‘Excuse the chaos’, says Trudy, ‘Matt’s under a blanket, raaaaarrring!’
Play comes naturally for this dad, and his popularity with the kids at Playcentre is not surprising in the least. ‘I’m not actually that funny’ he laughs, ‘but I have a relaxed, chilled-out persona’. Basically Matt loves to have fun! In fact, when you hear such unbridled fervour, it’s difficult to imagine that Matt still struggles with fatigue as a result of his accident.
For this big kid, physical play is his forte and favourite. He doesn’t let his injury hold him – or Portia-Rose – back. ‘She can keep up with the boys. She loves climbing ladders’, Matt says with pride.
At Woolston, there are currently four Dads regularly on session. President Rachel Pharazyn remarks on the playful dynamic that Dads bring – ‘sitting in tents, swinging on ropes, climbing on the fort. It certainly shows that Playcentre isn’t just for the children!’
For Matt, Playcentre has offered a lot more than simply opportunities to play. While Portia-Rose has taken her first steps at Woolston Playcentre, Matt has launched into a new world, completing his Course 1 and embarking on his Course 2.
‘Playcentre offers lots of opportunities, for both of us. Portia-Rose is able to run around and mingle and be with other kids – and not just those her own age’. While Matt relishes the learning opportunities he has had, it’s pretty clear that this dad loves running and mingling as well.
Matt’s is a story that registers the fragility and unpredictability of life, as well as the miracles that can occur. It is about vulnerability as well as resilience. But listening to Matt ‘raaaar’ under a blanket, I am lost in the moment, thinking about the awesome force that is play.
A way of connecting with people, a vehicle for overcoming challenges, a medium for learning and growth. But, above all – I am reminded – a source of endless fun and an invitation to embrace the lighter moments in life.
Posted: Saturday 14 May 2016