To be a Father is to be Present

Jun 21, 2020 7 Min Read
Never forget the power of a father’s words. They can uplift. They can cut deep. Or you can do nothing with it. 

A quick glance into the past

Growing up, I remember my father spending lots of time working to put food on the table, clothes on our backs, and generally ensure his family was well provided for. However, this also meant little time spent with us during our childhood.

By the laws of comedy, my son and I are about to reel in a stinky old rubber boot.

Do not misunderstand. I deeply appreciate what my father did for us. For many years, he was my life support system, especially putting me through tertiary education which gave me skills needed to make a decent living.

And now, thanks to all that, I am able to provide for a family of my own. My wife and I have been blessed with a son and two daughters. Life has once again gone full circle. 

Ok, we caught a tilapia, but then again they can taste pretty rubbery.

Now, with my own children and family, I realised that no matter how busy I might be, I must make time for them by doing something exciting that can inspire them to discover their own potential.

The modern-day father trap

Many fathers today are trapped in a vicious loop. They work hard and work endlessly, earn more money for the family, provide a better life for the household, and satisfy the child’s material desires. They raise their sons to do the same, and on and on it goes.

The dark side of this is that fathers may be too busy working and forget that children growing up need more than just stuff. Who will walk with them through the painful, awkward years of adolescence and puberty, helping them deal with physiological changes? 

Fathers owe it to their children to be the source of guidance and companionship. Be the one they can turn to for advice. Otherwise, be prepared for your child looking to other sources to find answers. Too often this source is the Internet, and too often the answers here can be wrong and misleading. 

Initially, this can fly under the radar especially with parents being so busy. However, later in adolescence, the influences from these sources can manifest as very problematic behaviour. At this point, it will be much harder to correct wayward thoughts, compared to if you had just listened to them when they actually needed you. 

Don’t worry, there was more than one tent.
It should also be noted that this whole notion of giving our children more material possessions can be counterproductive. If parents do not teach their children to live by correct values and establish their positive value system to help them make the right choices and judgments; parents must bear the ‘looks good, feel ‘better’ lifestyle’ for children. You end up with parents working hard to provide more, children who begin to expect everything, and both sides never enjoying a truly fulfilling relationship. 

Educating the next generation is the responsibility of every parent, whether it is a single parent or couple.

I recently read a book called The Heart of A Father. This book is specifically aimed at and talks about the role of fathers. To be honest, I rarely see such books appear in bookstores. I would like to share some of my takeaways:

  • The word ‘father’ is not only a special word, but also a powerful word! A word that can shape entire generations.
  • Numerous statistical findings prove the importance of the role of a father.
  • The father’s influence on the family has never been as strong.
  • When a father loses combat power/forsakes his duty, it will cause social and economic problems.

The book specifically mentions the problems that arise if the father is absent during the growth of the child:

  • Compared with ordinary children, when they grow up, they are 5 – 10 times more likely to grow up poor
  • In juvenile delinquency cases: 70% came from families without fathers; they also became repeat offenders.
  • Growing up without a father is linked to a 100% higher dropout rate.
  • Children growing up without a father are more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems. 

Fathers playing huge roles in the development of a child, who would have thought? But then why is this still a problem?

As soon as a child is born, it usually spends most of its time with the mother. Even before the child is born, the fetus is in the mother’s stomach, and the mother’s umbilical cord feeds the fetus until he/she is born. Caring for the child comes from primal instinct for mothers.

Fathers on the other hand are more removed. As a breed, we need to make more of an effort to learn how to best fill our roles. Otherwise, you may be caught off guard and not know how to start. 

When a child is young, it may seem to be no big problem. Just give food, clothing, and housing. It’s not that difficult, right?

Once children start to reach the age of adolescence, they begin to actively seek their parents’ affirmation and recognition to fulfil a sense of security, and various psychological needs.

Once children start to reach the age of adolescence, they begin to actively seek their parents’ affirmation and recognition to fulfil a sense of security, and various psychological needs. If at this time, parents, especially fathers, do not provide this for whatever reason, the child is likely to look outside the home for the affirmation, recognition and security needed.

The identity of the father is very important for children. It is like a captain in charge of the course of a ship letting the sailors know where to go, giving affirmation, helping the sailors find their core identity, journeying together, and creating a sense of security. What happens if a ship has no captain? It will wander aimlessly, exhaust supplies, and sink. 

How do I ensure my presence in my children’s lives?

Taking my family on outdoor adventures has always been the best way to bond, as my father always brought us to his cacao farm when we were little, to pluck the cacao fruits and scrape beans out from its shell. We’d sell the beans at the local collection center. For ten year old me, It was unbelievably boring. Little did I know that looking back now, it was where I learned one of the greatest lessons in life: the value of earning a dollar.

I’ve always loved the outdoors, and getting out of the house and putting ourselves in unfamiliar territory where we only have each other for support has a powerful effect of bringing us closer in hear and mind. Out here, we don’t need to share WiFi to be connected!

Also, who knows how much longer my body can keep up with them? One day my son will be way stronger than me, so why not show off the power of my dad-muscles and be their superhero while I still can?

When my children fall down and cut their hands or graze their knees, I’ll be there to patch them up. To dry their tears. To spur them on. Be brave and try. It doesn’t matter if you fail. I want them to know that this is how it will be for the rest of my life – that whenever they feel lost, their father is here for them to turn to. Not some self-professed life coach from a YouTube ad. 

And slowly, as they learn to fail and rise again, those cuts and bruises will heal with calluses that toughen them up. They will learn the value of independence and perseverance. One day I’ll be gone, and I’d like to know that they can take care of themselves. That they too can start their own families and experience the joys I have.

The art of parent-child communication

Do you remember how your own father communicated with you when you were young and filled you with positive energy? Or how a scolding from him could bring you to tears? Never forget the power of a father’s words. They can uplift. They can cut deep. Or you can do nothing with it. 

There are no perfect children, only vessels to fill with unconditional love and accompany the best we can.
There are no perfect dads, but blessed is the father that takes on this most rewarding of journeys with knowledge and purpose.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Thomas Ngu is an active daddy of 3 adorable kids. He’s always in the mood for adventure and exploration despite a busy working life. He is passionate about sharing parenting ideas, community service, social connectivity and believes that parenting is more community support than just individual performance. In his free time, Thomas enjoys DIY of any sort and is just happy spending time messing around with art and crafts. His wife is slowly beginning to admire, embrace and support his energetic, dynamic and passionate life.

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