My father seldom spoke. He is a Hainanese. I guess that speaks enough. By default, I am a Hainanese too. But I speak. I speak quite a lot. I write too. As a father, I have spoken much more to my son in his 14 years than my father has ever spoken to me thus far (that is, 46 years and counting).
So, being the loquacious me, my son finds me talking rubbish sometimes. But my writing (as I am doing now) usually speaks volume. And here is how I celebrate Father's Day this morning. I celebrate it by looking back at my failures as a father. I celebrate it by looking at the gap in my commitment to my three kids. I celebrate this day by patting myself on the back and whisper, "You've a lifetime to get this right...don't lose heart."
Fatherhood is a strange virus of love. It grows within you. It infects your bloodstream. It makes your heart beat faster on some occasions, crazy fast if you get what I mean. This virus is resistant too. It fights to stay within and multiply. It seeks to survive and thrive. This virus consumes me sometimes; it sends me into fits of fever, rage and worry.
Now associating love with a virus seems strange. But when it comes to fatherhood, I think it is an apt metaphor about our imperfections. You see, a virus is a bad thing only if you succumb to it. It is a good thing if it strengthens you (your immune system that is). And in fatherhood terms, the love virus fortifies you as you learn from one stupid mistakes after another. And I have my fair harvest of errors as a father over the years.
Somehow, I thought I'd planted the right seeds to enable fatherhood to flourish, that is, I courted the first girl I kissed, married her after 9 years of courtship, and then determined in our hearts that we are going to turn our honeymoon night into future bundles of joy.
Then, when the first, second and third bundles arrived, I felt like I am juggling cats and dogs in the air. It's not the juggling that is hard though. It is keeping them from fighting each other that makes the whole juggling feat terrifyingly challenging.
And I have dropped them many times, ahem, I mean failed to live up. I lost my cool. I over-punished. I scolded to let off steam. I offered them the sunset of my energy. I imposed my wishes and stillborn dreams on them. I expected them to grow up faster than they can enjoy growing up. I demanded adult minds growing in young bodies. I didn't always do what I preach (or write). And at times, and this harvest of errors list can go on and on actually, I was judgmental, impatient and morose to them.
It is said that idealism increases the further you are away from the issue (or children). That's so true. Before the bundles of joy came, I had high targets for them. I aimed for the sky. After they came, I found that most times I am shooting blanks. The sky seems like falling. And the targets miles away.
At this juncture, you may be asking me: "What's your point, mike? It's father's day for heaven sake!"
Well, it's Father's Day I know, and fathers are once a child learning from their own father. They learn from examples and experiences - be it positive or negative ones. And when the child becomes a father, the learning doesn't stop (it in fact goes full throttle).
If you think fatherhood is about being a mentor, teacher or guide to your child, you are half right. The other half is about being a student, that is, learning the ropes as you totter along. And trust me, the learning is never ending because growing up is never ending as new learning environments present themselves to both the father and the child.
I guess what distinguishes a good dad from a bad one is one of presence. It is about being there, staying the course, and following it through. A good dad is an imperfect dad who just doesn't give up. He may stumble and fall, but he makes it a point to get up. He has his own mountain to climb, but he makes time, loves his best and, for his kids, he shows up.
In other words, however broken he may be, being bombarded by the storms of life, and struggling to overcome his own demons, he falls forward. He adapts and makes amends. He learns from his mistakes. He doesn't give up. He fights for what is important, and deep down, he knows viscerally what is enduringly important.
He makes a difference. He pushes himself regardless of his moods, emotions or sentiments. He takes two steps forward for every one step back. In all this, he fails successfully. And in the end, when he looks back, when the children have all grown up to become fathers (and mothers) to their very own, he would have realized that by failing successfully, he had it fact succeeded more times than he had failed. He would in other words have succeeded, most unfailingly. Cheerz.