I grew up in a conservative society with many societal expectations. For example, there are social norms about when you should date (not when you are in school!), get hitched (of course you must get married!), how many kids you should have (in the 1970s and 1980s, not more than two; after the 1990s, three or more if you could afford it), what kind of job you should have (one that brings 5 Cs: career, car, condominium, cash, credit card) etc.
At Chinese New Year gatherings, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, daily casual conversations, people ask insensitive questions: when are you finding a girlfriend (or boyfriend)? When are you getting married? When are you having kids? When are you having your 2nd kid? When are you having your 3rd kid? Did you kids top their class this year?
The funny thing about being in a culture is that it is often subconscious. When you are part of it, you think and act in certain ways because that’s how others think and act, and “that’s how things have always been done around here”. (The same is true for organizational culture.) It’s when you don’t quite fit in those quirks and behaviors that you become more conscious about it.
Some years ago, Fern and I invited Rusty into our hearts and home (or perhaps, he self-invited :P). To us, he’s our darling boy and will always be our first kid. We had no doubts seeing ourselves as his parents. From time to time though, we would get strange looks and sniggers from some people, “Of course it’s not the same…”, “How can a dog be a kid?”, “Don’t waste time, quickly get your own kid!”.
They probably mean well, but it’s still mean words no less. But we take it in our stride.
Today, as I celebrate Fathers’ Day with my Dad and Dad-in-Law, I also reflect on what it means to be a dad:
- A dad is one who loses sleep over his kids
- Fusses over them, cleans and grooms them (sometimes even when they are all grown up)
- Peers over their puke and poo when they are ill
- Teaches them, scolds them, yet takes pride in their achievements no matter how small
- Celebrates each of their milestones as they come (and thinks that they grow up too quickly)
- Puts their interest before his own
- Makes sacrifices for them that he wouldn’t do for himself
- Looks out for their safety at the expense of his own
- Loves them unconditionally regardless of who they are and what “flaws” they may have
When I look at this list, I feel privileged to have been on the receiving end of a doting and caring dad. At the same time, I also feel privileged to be able to give of this to my furry boy.
Setting aside whatever cultural norms you may face, if you have been on the giving or receiving end of some of the above acts of love, you have been abundantly blessed, and may this be a special day for you and that other :)
Happy Fathers’ Day!