Fathers have an impact – good or bad, intentional or otherwise – simply by what they do, and what they don’t.
TODAY is Father’s Day. There is no real significance to this date, other than the fact that it has become yet another day for commercial interests to make more money.
And so we are inundated with messages on what we should buy for our fathers – anything from a tie to a power drill is fine.
It is also interesting that many charity organisations have also got into the game, where you can give a donation on behalf of your father in support of various causes.
I won’t pour cold water on those who believe this day should be celebrated in such manner. Having been a father for nearly 30 years, I will say that a day’s celebrations can’t encapsulate the role of a father, which is both unique and challenging.
More so in our Asian culture where fathers tend to play second fiddle to mothers in a nurturing role, and may not have enough opportunities to exert their influence on the children.
But the reality is we, fathers, do have an impact – good or bad, intentional or otherwise – simply by what we do, and what we don’t.
I have written before in this column that the best times in my career were the six years, over two different stretches, that I spent at home as a full-time father.
I had a whale of a time, although my better half did find it tricky explaining to friends why she had to earn the bread and butter while I was gallivanting at home.
Without being tied down to an office routine, I had all the time in the world. During my first stint, when my sons were still quite young, we had plenty of fun activities. Among other things, I built them a playhouse, flew kites with them, and taught them to swim and to ride a bicycle.
On my second stint, when they were already in their pre-teens and had become more aware of the world around them, our conversations often revolved around the values of life.
Fathers, as you receive gifts on Father’s Day, I wonder if you have thought about what gifts you might give to your children in their formative years – gifts that money cannot buy.
Do you teach them how to make the right choices, rather than lay down a list of dos and don’ts?
Do you respect that they have a voice that needs to be heard, or do you exert authority simply because you are the father?
Do you imbue in them the fortitude to overcome obstacles in life, resisting the urge to always jump in and rescue them?
Do you affirm their dreams, or simply tell them to be practical and march to the beat of the world?
I have learnt that these lessons cannot be taught in a textbook format, and certainly not in one sitting.
Lessons in life are passed on over many conversations and through much time spent together.
If we are the kind of fathers who leave home before our children wake up and come home after they are asleep, or even when we are present with them, are not really listening, perhaps it’s time to take stock.
The world tries to make busy dads feel less guilty by highlighting the effectiveness of so-called quality time. But I believe there can be no quality time without time in quantity.
Fathers, full-time or not, are you prepared to leave everything aside when your child comes up to you, because you are the only person he or she can call “dad”? And will you show, through your words and actions, that such moments mean all the world to you? Happy Father’s Day.
By Sunday starters SOO Ewe Jin
Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin urges every dad to listen to Cat in the Cradle, made famous in 1974 by Harry Chapin. The song is about a father who was too busy to spend time with his son, who eventually grew up just like him, a busy man who did not have time for his father. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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