We put in so much effort to remember happy occasions (e.g. birthdays, wedding anniversaries). We mark these dates in our calendars, save reminders on our phones, take pictures, post them on social media and even make the occasional “throw-back” reference. Despite these efforts, it’s inevitable that […]
Not everyone is blessed to have their father in their life. So to have a good one, is an even greater privilege.
I grew up idolizing my dad. I thought he was handsome, strong, intelligent and friendly. Then, like many others I arrived at a stage in my life where my parents were no longer put on pedestals. They were people with flaws and worries, and they made mistakes, just like everyone else. First I judged them for it, you can call this my rebellious teenage phase. Then I was lucky enough to learn to accept, love and admire my parents for all of who they are and what they have done and continue to do for me.
This post is about my dad. I want to highlight how he contributed to my journey in learning to be a strong woman. Let me start off by saying, my dad is not a perfect human being. I also dare not claim he is the best father in the world. He is however, a loving, protective, dedicated, hardworking and generous dad to me. I love him and I know many others who love him too. We have had many disagreements and we do not get along all the time – but I know he is the one man who will love and protect me no matter what.
There is no denying that a role of a father is extremely impactful on a child’s life. For my dad, it was not just about how frequent he was around or how many phone calls he made home. It was not about how many gifts he bought me or how nice his car was. For my dad, it was what he said and did to connect with me that became deeply engraved in my heart.
Here are the moments in my life that my dad has gifted me. I hope it gives the fathers and ‘fathers-to-be’ out there a better perspective on what matters.
My personal experience tells me that apologizing does get harder as we get older! We have learned to mask our feelings of shame and unworthiness by becoming defensive about our mistakes, and denying when we are wrong. My dad gifted me the memory of him apologizing to me. I was raised in an Asian household where discipline and respect were highly valued (read “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua to get a more intense version of Asian parenting). Although my dad’s spanking were never as frequent as my moms, when it did happen, it was 10 times more terrifying.
The first time I ever got spanked (I was 5-6years old that time), my dad sat me down and apologized after we were both calm. My dad’s apology to me was not only ‘humbling’ and unexpected. He showed that he understood that it hurt me and his empathy for my pain built our relationship.
The undeniable existence of gender inequality, even in my era, makes a bigger deal about men crying. As an example, during weddings, I catch myself feeling more excited about the groom crying compared to the bride. When he does, I get all teary eyed because for some reason it just meant that much ‘more’ that the man cried.
My dad is not naturally an emotional person. So when it is clear that he is ‘feeling’ something, he’s got my attention. When children are intuitive about their parent’s feelings, it typically impacts the child’s emotional state as children lack the ability to comprehend complex emotions. Children will learn to mimic responses (e.g. show anger, find comfort, run and hide) that are demonstrated or encouraged by others.
My dad has gifted me the memory of him crying when he was at his most vulnerable. One of these incidences was when my uncle (his youngest brother) passed away in a work accident many years ago. My dad was so heart broken he couldn’t finish conversations about him without his voice breaking. This created a space for our family to comfort him. We never avoided talking about my uncle, we all grieved together and it was a very memorable yet painful time for all of us.
3.He did not just talk the talk, he walk the walk.
Do you know of a parent who tells stories that start off with ‘when I was young…’ and ends with ‘…moral of the story is’? I do! These stories bore me from time to time, but it was never how great he told the story that influenced me. It was how he practiced and applied the values in his own life that inspires me.
My dad gifted me the memories of him living out values that he preached were important. I learned that family was a priority because he showed me. I learned to be thankful and helpful because he was. I learned to value my education and work hard because he lived it. I learned that I could rely on him because he always showed up at the times I needed him most.
4.He tells me he loves me.
Actions do speak louder than words, but words are equally as important. My dad gifted me memories of hearing him say “I love you” to my mom, my sister, my brother and me.
It is extremely validating to hear that someone you love, loves you back. It gives affirmation that you are worthy of someone’s heart and time. Hearing ‘I love you’ never gets old. Even now, I find so much comfort and healing to hear my parents tell me they love me.
My list may look simple, but I know for many people this is way easier than it looks. We all have a hard time opening up and being vulnerable. It’s not suppose to be easy. We struggle to do this with ourselves, with our friends, with our partners…let alone with our own child. So to all the strong dads out there I say this to you:
It is not about how much weight you could lift or how much money you make and bring home. It is not about how tough you appear when you fail or when things get stressful and sad. It is also not about how powerful you are with your requests and commands.
Love happens through the connection that you allow others to have with you. My dad lives his life the way he wants me to live mine. He loves and cares about the people that loves and cares about me. Most importantly, he loves me enough to risk being vulnerable so that I could feel comforted. He loves and shares his heart and soul with me. That alone is incredible. That alone, is what makes him my strong dad.
Happy Birthday Dad.
Feeling beautiful is personal and for some an ongoing journey. Feeling beautiful differs from looking beautiful because feeling beautiful needs only to be validated by one person.. YOURSELF. Recently, I reflected on my own ideas of beauty and how it had contributed to deep seated […]
You know you’re old when you dread adding another year to your age. When I was younger, growing up felt much more exciting. I can always recall celebrating the moments when I was finally tall enough to ride a roller-coaster, and old enough to drive a car and go to a bar legally. I’ve always enjoyed birthdays and I still do. However, in the past few years I’ve been broached with a topic that has made aging as a woman less exciting. The unavoidable truth: women’s fertility declines with age. Often referred as our ‘biological clock’.
Thankfully, my parents are extremely supportive and have raised me to live and accomplish life without gender specific goals. Despite this, it has become very apparent that there is still societal pressure that women should be expected to have children at a certain age. Our biological clock really does not help with this perception. I am very happy to say that this year I no longer feel pressured by my ‘biological clock’ to fulfill any goals or expectations in my life. Here are the following three reasons why:
Happy adults raise happy children. It was important to me to be happy in my relationship and be married prior to having children. I cannot predict when I will meet the right person and get married. I am responsible for my behaviour and feelings in a relationship, but I have no control over how someone feels about me and how they act or think. I prioritize being in a fulfilling and happy relationship and good ones require work.
- Success of pregnancy
I hope you are not surprised by this, but pregnancy is not 100% within our control. Now let me explain. You can prevent pregnancy, you can plan for pregnancy, but you cannot determine the success of a pregnancy. Babies are truly little miracles. I know so many couples who have experienced miscarriages and/or fertility issues. I truly empathize when they are bombarded with questions about having children. I would encourage everyone to be more mindful and sensitive when approaching this topic. If for some reason you have to ask, I have always found it helpful to say “do you plan to have children?” instead of being presumptuous with questions like: “when are you going to have kids?, why are you not pregnant yet?, don’t you want kids?”
Finally, is it so wrong if I have decided that I may just not be ready to have children? Or would it be wrong if I do not plan on ever having children? It is easy to assume that base on my career, my experience and my personality that I may want to be a mother, and perhaps one day I might. However, I also have other interests and goals that are currently more meaningful and important to me.
The expectation that all woman will or want to become mothers need to be evaluated. It is by far the hardest job in world. Although it may also be the most rewarding, it doesn’t mean it will and should happen for everyone. I use to struggle with the idea that my clients may question my expertise as a child psychologist without having any children of my own. Interestingly, in my 9 years of work with families, NO ONE (not my supervisor, not my colleagues, not my clients) have ever doubted my ability to work with parents and children. The expectation of marriage and motherhood have also caused me to be unhappy and resentful in my previous relationship. I was terrified with the idea of spending forever with a person who made me feel so miserable. I did not leave because I was so determined to fulfill the expectations of having a marriage and family one day. I was committed to make things work in my relationship because I undermined my own needs and focused only on the needs of others.
It is OK to fail and feel like we are not perfect. It is OK to not meet the expectations and standards of others. Expectations and standards are man-made anyway, and anything man-made can always be changed.