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Bluey: Ladies & Gentlemen, I’m Doing This For My Kid

Guest Chapter by Mike Perna of InnRoads Ministries

He goes by many names. Telemachus, Bert Handsome, Romeo McFlurrish. There are even some who call him – Diddums. No matter what you want to call him, the moment I heard his heavy sigh when his girls asked him to play a game of hospital with them, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. What I wasn’t prepared for was that I had just been introduced to a character I would consider a personal parenting role model, or that watching him play with his kids would lead me to reflect on God’s love for us. This was how I was introduced to an animated series from Australia called Bluey, and the legend known as Bandit Heeler.

Bluey is technically considered children's programming, but its deep and nuanced approach to tackling issues common to kids, parents, and families as a whole has definitely endeared it to a wide variety of audiences. I can verify that while I myself started watching the show as something light I could watch with my son, many a night has passed with me watching multiple episodes by myself. On more than one of those occasions I have done so in tears. As a father myself, watching the way Bandit interacts with his girls is just a joy. He’s silly and carefree with them without falling headlong into the buffoonish dad caricature. He is absolutely shameless in the way he will sacrifice his own pride – and body – to make sure they have everything they need. And yet he is still vulnerable with them in a way that puts away all the dad bravado that comes with trying to instill the girls with trust and faith in him, and, in so doing, does well to earn both anyway. I could spend the rest of this chapter breaking down a list of Bandit’s greatest hits as a dad, but you can find a pile of those lists with even the most casual search. But instead I want to share how from that very first “Oh no. Not this again” sigh to the sweet moment over an ice pop he shared with Bingo on an episode my son and I only just found out has squeaked in after previously being unavailable here in America, Bandit Heeler continually demonstrates what it means to not only be a loving father, but also an image of the love God has for all of us as the Father.

One of my favorite episodes of the third season of the show is called “Chest.” As is often the case, Bandit walks into a fairly serene scene of Bluey and her mother Chilli and announces his glorious intentions. He wants to teach Bluey how to play chess. While my five year old chess player will tell you that it should be well within her ability for Bluey to learn the game if she wanted to – she clearly wants nothing to do with this exercise. Naturally, hilarity ensues with Bluey and Bingo dividing their side of the board into two teams, naming their knights Gallahop and Daughter of Gallahop respectively, and more – growing increasingly frustrated as Bandit mercilessly captures piece after piece from their side. It’s right at the end of the episode that Chilli steps in to take over, ensuring the girls that she knows how to defeat him. While she starts out describing the moves she’s making on the board, she eventually starts saying that she would ask their dad, “Why do you want teach the kids this game?” She then, rightfully, surmises that Bandit wants them to learn because smart people play chess. She further points out that he wants them to be smart because one day they’ll grow up to be queens and he won’t always be there to protect them. Speaking as Bandit, she says, “‘I’m going to do whatever I can now to help you.’ Because he’s a good king.”

In Matthew 7: 7-11, it says

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Those verses immediately jumped into my mind the first time I watched this episode. Everything that Bandit does for his kids is born from a desire to see them grow into the wonderful, amazing women he knows they will be. Naturally he messes up sometimes, being only human – or an anthropomorphized dog in this case – and not all of his ideas are good ones. But at the heart of all of it, he just wants what’s best for them. As Matthew seven points out, if earthly fathers are moving and working to provide us with everything we need to grow and persevere, imperfect as we are, why wouldn’t God? Sometimes we look at God like His holiness means we are all one misstep out of getting our toys taken away and sent to our room to think about what we’ve done. While God does allow all manner of hurt, struggle, sadness, frustration, and hardship to cross our path, His goal is never to make us suffer. It’s because what will be born in us through those moments will drive us towards being that royal priesthood Peter talks about.

In another episode, called “The Dump,” the girls go with Bandit to the dump to get rid of a car full of garbage. In the process of throwing the trash away, it’s revealed that one of the boxes is filled with drawings Bluey had done, many of them being drawings of herself. In that moment she feels like her dad doesn’t love her. Bingo even says “You’re throwing away Bluey!” But Bandit comes to her door and lets her know what’s going on. The whole way to the dump he was talking about how he knew everything, but here he admits to her that it wasn’t true. He doesn’t know everything, and he’s not the best dad. He lets them know that he wasn’t throwing the pictures away in the “stinky dump” – but he was putting them in the dump to be recycled so that some other kid could use the paper to make their own drawings after Bluey. Bluey then realizes that it might not be a bad thing for her to let go of her pictures so that someone else could use what comes from it. She even asks Bandit if he thinks the paper she used for her drawings may have once been used by someone else before she got it. To which Bandit responds, “Well, what do you think?” Allowing Bluey to reflect and realize that it might have been someone else’s before hers.

If we are already going into a moment with the understanding God is moving in a way that everything He gives us is growing us into the person He wants us to be – the person who is fully living the life God wants for us and lined up with His own heart – it’s possible that we can see things that fall away or even taken from us differently. They might be the very thing that someone else carries with them to write and draw whole new pieces from the stories we leave behind.

Romans 8: 28 is a verse that gets trucked out often in circumstances like this. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”But something we don’t always realize is that the good being enacted might not feel good to us in the moment. The good God may be working is that someone else we see, or someone who hears our story might draw closer to God because they heard. We’re not being disregarded, thrown away, or unheard. The Father is just putting our stories in the place where it can be most used by others.

If there is one Bandit moment to end on, I can’t help but look to the episode where the title of this chapter was born. The episode is called “Dance Mode.” Having mistakenly eaten Bingo’s last french fry that she had been saving, Bandit tells Bingo that he’ll do whatever she wants to make it up to her. Dance Mode was her reply. When dance mode was on, no matter what the circumstance, you had to dance to the music. I won’t break down the entire episode, but it ends with Bandit, Chilli, and even Bluey poised beside Busker the busking dog playing music on an instrument made from PVC pipes in a crowded city square. Right before Bingo starts dance mode, Bandit loudly announces to the audience “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m doing this for my kid.” And at the end of the day, that’s the sticking post of this whole thing. Watch the show from episode to episode and you’ll experience Bandit being profound, heartfelt, silly, and shameless. You’ll see him be all those things and none of them at the same time. But the whole time you can’t help but know that this is a dad that would do anything for his girls. Anything. He loves them so powerfully and so honestly that it compels him to act in all those myriad ways for them. He doesn’t know any other way to be. This is how God sees us. He doesn’t know how to move in a way that isn’t perfect love for us. It can be confusing, even infuriating at times. But when God moves, it’s a move of love towards His children that we might see Him and know Him more. And what might we see if we can only position ourselves to ask, “Hey, Dad. I know you’re doing something good here, but I don’t see it. Can you show me?”



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