I was 10 years old when I watched The Empire Strikes Back. That was when I realised that Darth Vader wasn’t going to win any father of the year awards, yet Luke never stopped wanting to connect with him.
That revelation made me aware that no matter our shortcomings growing up, fathers can still impact and shape our kids in many ways.
It falls on us to embrace our privilege as fathers to love our kids and be a role model for them. I may not have Cristiano Ronaldo’s ability to wipe out billions of a brand’s market value, but we certainly can impact our children’s lives in our own ways.
Sometimes, we unknowingly model unhealthy behaviour — I have been guilty of some! In those places where we fall short, we must be willing to fix it and try again. Remember, in this social media world, we are our children’s first influencers.
As our children get older, it’s important to spend time with them, talk to them and listen to them. At home, my two kids address me as “bro”, and we prank each other, like how they would with their friends.
Having fun together is great but the most important thing is listening to them. That 15 minutes we spent listening is worth 15 hours to them. Make it a point to find out what they did every day, even when it could seem mundane.
I believe that fathers play, parent and communicate differently from mothers. My wife stresses sympathy, care, and help at home, while I stress justice, fairness, and duty.
Although these roles may be played by different figures in each household, it is how these different approaches come together that bring a balance — and prepare our children for the real world. We are like life jackets for them until they know how to swim.
Most importantly, as fathers, remember that we provide a first look at the world of men to both our daughters and sons. How they see the world is first seen in us.
We are more than just the adults in our homes. We have the power to influence them like no other person can — a force to bring balance to our children.
Here are some stories of our fathers:
Jane Yu: “Connections change, but love remains”
To my father,
As a child, a day with you meant ice cream for breakfast and instant noodles for lunch (with some green peas on the side, of course. Health is everything!) We’d watch a movie, with one strict rule on snacks: Either ice cream or potato chips. Nothing else. We’d end with big smiles and bloated bellies, passed out after a day fruitfully spent.
Then my teen years hit. Interests shifted and we grew apart.
But now, older that I am, I’m beginning to find great joy in simple, no-junk-food-needed conversations with you. I tell you about the modules I’m passionate about at school, and you tell me about your work and wristwatches and whatever else among the thousand things you know.
We can share our thoughts and feelings, and I love this newfound connection. But I’m also grateful that our bond is strong enough again for me to tell you, as I press ‘Play’ for the movie: “I’ll have ice cream and chips, please.”
Tan Kerng Ngee: “Finding the right words to say”
I was running frantically. My dad’s workplace, a few blocks from our home, had just called. He was giddy and throwing up bloody vomit. I remember sitting in the ambulance next to him on the stretcher.
My dad and I have an uneasy relationship. To outsiders, he is a stoic, righteous man: he keeps his word and helps people whenever he can. But at home, his quietness, so typical of those born in the 50s, translates into a reluctance to talk about feelings.
Since young, I learnt and accepted that discussions on certain topics is a taboo in my family. I never knew how to express my feelings towards my dad even till today. So I mask it with “吃饱了吗?” (chi bao le ma, or have you eaten yet?), buying him snacks and treats from interesting eateries, hoping that he can hear the love behind the mundane question.
Standing outside the A&E ward, struggling with fears of mortality and regret, I wondered if I had done enough to start more conversations with my dad.
It turned out to be just an attack of vertigo. I’m glad that this was just a health scare but it really hit me hard. I still have so many words I don’t dare say to my dad face-to-face. Hopefully one day, I can say these words out loud: Love you Dad, always.
Nixon Ong: “Remembering the simple pleasures”
My dad often cooks scrumptious meals for the family. He’s also a conscientious hard worker, as I can see now he’s working from home! I’ve always seen his determination to perform well and not disappoint the family.
Yet he is often easy-going too. He simply wants me to do my best in whatever I am doing. Even when I fail to do well in school or work, he often encourages me with advice that I truly appreciate.
When we chat about interests like my photography or food, he helps me to understand that the simple pleasures in life are sometimes all we need to be happy.
We might not be as close as some other dads and their kids. But what he has done for our family is certainly something that I will forever be grateful for. Wishing my dad a healthy and long life, and may we continue to build on our bonds as the years go by!
Charmin Nahar: “Listening means so much”
My dad is one of the most hardworking men I know. In his twenties, he came here alone to provide for his family in Bangladesh out of a sense of duty as the oldest son.
He held himself to very high standards because he wanted to succeed for his children to have a good life. He had big dreams for us — doctor, lawyer or engineer. However, as time passed, he adjusted his expectations as he realised that we might have different perceptions of success.
He would tell my siblings and me his life stories — growing up in Bangladesh, the jobs he worked in Singapore and how he met our mother. I would talk to him about politics and he would try to get me to exercise with him.
Once when I was stressed about my projects. I broke down. He just listened, then gave me a big hug and some advice. I had always been afraid to tell my dad about my mental health struggles because I didn’t think he would understand but I was touched by what he did.
I’m proud to be my dad’s daughter because he is always going to be there for me, supporting me however he can. I only hope to make him as proud of me as I am of him!
Other stories you might like
Chloe Nacario: “My dad, my friend”
Growing up as an only child can be quite lonely.
While I was still living in the Philippines, I got to see my cousins often, with some living just down the street or coming over during the weekends. Moving to Singapore meant moving away from them. Fortunately, my parents doubled as my friends, especially my father.
A phrase I often hear about my dad and me is, “The two of you are like siblings!” In many ways I can see why. Not only do we look alike, but when I was a child, he was often my playmate. He would chase me around and carry me on his shoulders. He was the one with toy curlers in his hair whenever I deemed it a “spa day” and watched Avatar the Last Airbender (the superior cartoon series, not the movie) with me.
Even now, as I’m loving my alone time, I know I can still count on him to playfully bicker with me and make me laugh. Yet what I admire about him the most is how selfless he is. He has made many sacrifices and worked so hard for our family.
I know that if I’m even an ounce of how selfless and kind he is, I would have done well in life.
Chee Wenqi: “Our magical family handyman”
A handyman who fixes everything at home. This is the first thing that comes to mind if anyone asks me about my dad. He can magically create something to make our life at home more comfortable.
Tap leaking? Call Papa. “Why light cannot on?” Call Papa. “Why remote control no battery? Call Papa. “Why the…” Call Papa. We know we can count on him!
Though he is not expressive, Papa shows his love through his actions. He is protective of our well-being, he makes sure that we eat hearty, dress well, are safe, and not stressed, cracking jokes with his unique sense of humour just to make us laugh. Even my husband finds him adorable.
Some say I’m like a carbon copy of my dad in looks and that’s great. But what I wish the most is to inherit his big heart, tenacity and generosity.
Angel Marie Magdoza: “Teaching me what to be proud of”
To the first man in my life:
Thank you for leaving the Philippines to give me and my siblings a better life here in Singapore. I know how close you were to nanay, tatay and all my tito and titas. You have sacrificed so much, taught me resilience and what unconditional love meant.
I’ve always been proud to tell others how generous, selfless and humorous you are (even when you crack those cringey yet funny dad jokes in that accent of yours!)
Thank you for always reminding me to stay humble and true to our roots. I have so much to be proud of. Visiting the Philippines as a young adult three years ago completely shifted my perspective on our rich culture.
Growing up as a teen, there were many times where we did not see eye-to-eye. However, you grew to become a compassionate and understanding father. It was probably not what you expected, raising two opinionated millennial daughters in another country in a way totally different from how you were raised.
But hey, you and mummy did a great job, we turned out alright. So, thank you for all your patience and support, daddy!
Tee Qin Shi: “The sacrifices a father makes”
To my unabashedly goofy father who cracks lame jokes that we try our best to laugh at, thank you for your sacrifices.
I’m not just talking about the years of driving us around, even on weekends when you would rather be napping. Even before my sister and I were born, you had decided to leave Penang, to give us a better life in Singapore. It must have been difficult to leave everything behind — family, childhood friends, and especially your favourite food! Life here is faster, and you need to work harder. Yet, you always say the effort is worth it.
Even though our views differ, you always ensured that we got the best opportunities and lived a comfortable life. Every week you would shove more cash at me even after I protest that I have enough pocket money. When I puked in the car while nursing a hangover, you laughed it off instead of getting angry, and even helped me clean up after.
You dedicated your time in a parents support group to better support me in my education. Even though I have decided on a less lucrative course that you don’t completely understand, you continue to support me in whatever I do.
People say I have your eyebrows, but I hope to have your generosity, your ability to make people laugh, and most importantly, your dedication to the ones you love.
Serene Leong: “In our memories, always”
A poem for my late father, who taught me to appreciate beauty.
From the fifty-seventh floor of the Marina Bay Sands,
the city looks like stars. The roads
are milky ways. Your face is a full moon
on a cloudless night.
We once defied gravity on hair-raising rides.
Now the distance to the ground forms a lump
in my throat. I am terrified of consequences,
a world without you.
The buildings along the skyline
shift like a kaleidoscope –
asphalt and concrete rising,
bone and ash sinking.
The sky bursts into flames,
marking Singapore’s independence;
how far we have come,
how long you have fought.
We are squeezed shoulder to shoulder at the edge,
camera clicking, capturing a moment of beauty.
I am on the Eiffel Tower the night we underestimated the cold. You had already been diagnosed.
I hope you are seeing this tonight.
From where you are,
I am certain, you have
the best view of all.