I never knew a father's heart intimately until recently. For most of my life, I thought only about myself. I lived for myself. I wanted things only for myself. Myself rules. If living is about boundary, then I had my own boundary. For all I knew then, I kept myself within the boundary. I hardly breached it. Hardly gone out of it. Hardly ventured beyond the walls. It is a gilded community of one and I hung a sign at the gate that reads: "Keep out. Private property."
But fatherhood changed me, slowly but surely. I became aware of the activity outside my boundary. I became sensitive to the outside world. With the birth of my son 13 years ago and my daughters (11 and 5), I soon began to take more liberties with my boundary. I began to venture out to explore what lies beyond the walls. My children gave me cause to do so and I've never looked back since.
Their worlds collided with mine. Their growth and my growth met at many crossroads and at every intersection, I grew a little. I grew because I did not keep myself within the walls. I grew because I desire to live beyond myself. I wanted to explore the lives of my children and to enter into their worlds. And in order to do that, I have to leave mine.
Initially, it was just short visits. I left my guarded estate to tend to theirs. But soon, and without being conscious of it, I was leaving my own boundary for theirs more often and away for longer. And I was enjoying every moment of it. They were moments to savor. I felt fulfilled.
But not all were smooth sailing. Our roads sometimes clashed and it did not meet with the desired effect. My children's growth often took on different paths and they often travelled at different speed. Some of these paths diverged from mine. And when we do meet at some point, it was more an intersection of conflict and disappointments than rejoicing.
I guess this is the price I pay for venturing out of my boundary. This is the cost of fatherhood. But this is also where I discovered a father’s heart. It is a heart that beats not for myself. It beats for them. It is not inward looking. It reaches out. It is not taking and hording. It is giving and learning. Brick by brick, we removed the walls that kept me in and my children out. Soon, our boundaries gave way and our hearts connected deeply. We were more united than apart.
Recently, I attended a wedding and I saw the couple's montages. In a flash of 5 minutes, on the big screen, I witnessed the growth of two lives before me. From birth to childhood to adulthood and to that day of celebration, it was all fleshed out before the witnessing crowd. It started with two different paths tottering along and it culminated at the intersection of marital love where both of them made an unwavering commitment to walk together for as long as they live. And the pictures that touched me intimately were pictures of the bride and bridegroom and their respective families.
In my own quiet reflection, I caught a glimpse of myself in the picture with my son and daughters as their own day arrives. I caught a tear streaming down my cheek as I thought back of their birth, their growth, their struggles, their tears, their joy, their hurts, their disappointments, their pain, and their hopes. And I am so glad I was there for most of them.
Yet, I know one day I will have to let them go to start their own life and to have their own family. And as sure as sunrise and sunset, that day will come and it will come earlier than I want it to come. When that day finally arrives, I will look back and relish the years of being a father to them. I will recall fondly how we overcame our differences and forge on with what we share in common. That common bond is our love for each other. It is the one language we share which transcends all struggles, conflicts and disappointments in our journey together. It is this love that makes the difference and resolves all our differences. Our bond is thus nourished by love.
And in all my recollection as I see myself standing in the aisle to let them go, I will come to this realization that losing my boundary for them is the best thing that could ever happen to me. Should I be asked to do it all over again, I would gladly lose myself for them. For in losing myself, I gain the ultimate prize of fatherhood, that is, the meaning and purpose I need to live my own life fully. Cheerz.