There was a time in Trinity Ropiha’s life when he thought he’d never experience having children. As a teenager, doctors told him that he had a very low sperm count and the likelihood of him becoming a father was very slim. But Trinity (34) defied the odds after having his first child at 21. He surprised the medical fraternity even more when he had five more children – a total of three boys and three girls, from 13 down to one years old. Today, the Rotorua tattoo artist is raising his six children on his own after separating from their mother. He says being a father has saved his life and his children are his inspiration.
“It was a hard break-up with my partner,” says Trinity, who was given full custody of his children. “Heartbreak and depression were starting to set in and I was trying to hide it from the kids. But I had to be strong for them. They took it upon themselves to lift me up, giving me hugs when I needed it and making sure that I was okay.”
Trinity is a devoted and compassionate father to Traye (13), Maniyah (12), Alyzae (11), Halo (7), Star (6) and Soul (1). He says because he is covered in tattoos, people often judge him and are surprised that he is a solo dad to such a large brood.
“None of my tattoos are gang tattoos and I’ve never been to jail. But I always get looked at in that kind of way – in public and at government agencies. I don’t care about what people think. They don’t know me or know that I want nothing but the best for my children.”
Rather than feel hampered by being a dad at a young age, Trinity is grateful for his big family, especially since he was under the impression that having children was unlikely. “I’ve always been a family man, a hunter and gatherer. I’ve always been good with kids. They seem to flock to me. I’ve even been asked if I wanted to work at a daycare centre. But I was wondering if parents would want to pick their child up, seeing them being bottle-fed by a tattooed Maori boy,” he says with a huge grin.
Before becoming a father, Trinity lacked direction in his life. But having his children was the positive change he needed and helped him pursue his dream of becoming a tattoo artist.
“Becoming a father was exciting and scary at the same time. The whole burden of responsibility just washed over me. But I wouldn’t be the same man if it wasn’t for my children. I probably would have done lots of partying and spent all my money.”
He’s grateful to have an even mix of boys and girls. “With my sons, I can teach them all things like how to put down a hangi and talk to them like I do with my other male mates. But girls are different. They keep me grounded as a man,” he says.
“You have to find your inner princess, learn to be softer and approach things a bit more carefully.” Trinity has even been known to turn up to one of his daughter’s dance recitals wearing a tutu. He says that his children’s friends find it “really cool” that he has heaps of tattoos. “Making my kids laugh means that they are happy and everything I do is to make sure there’s fun in their lives.”
A day in the Ropiha home is extremely hectic. It starts early at 6.30am, and involves making breakfasts, lunches, school drop offs, feeding and tending to the baby, housecleaning and dropping the kids to after-school activities.
“My mother helps out now and then, which makes things a little easier.
“I want to teach my children they can be whatever they want to be, and my job is to make that journey a lot easier for them.”