When a man becomes a husband and later on a dad, he is inevitably making a promise to his family that he will do all he can, willingly, to provide for his wife and his children so that their needs are met.
From the children’s perspective, the dad is in the spotlight and they will mimic his behaviour down to the very last detail – even in the areas where the dad fails. Possibly, that’s the reason why we often hear of friends groaning about how they resemble their dads, even in the very characteristics that they hate to be associated with!
Essentially, dads are heroes in the eyes of their children.
Nonetheless, it does not mean that dads must not be allowed to fail so that their children will not follow suit. It merely means that when dads fail, they need to exhibit the courage and humility to pick themselves up and move on; this demonstrates strength and character.
In contrast, if dads were to fail and fall away in despair, their children will generally become disillusioned and at a loss because they do not have a model of a dad who fails but is able to pick himself up and go on to take care of them. In essence, when a man becomes a husband and a dad in his family, he is saying that he is committed to being there for his wife and children, through thick and thin.
Commitment Creates Security for the Family
When a dad keeps his word, and provides care and protection for his family, he becomes someone who is a pillar of strength for them.
Often, a dad demonstrates strength and courage in the face of adversity. When he is able to provide a sense of safety for his wife and not run away from the situation, whether physically or emotionally, she generally responds to him with greater confidence and peace, and she’ll be able to work with him to nurture their children in confidence and peace.
Consequently, when the couple is able to negotiate through disagreements and storms of life, they model strength and security for the children who are dependent on their parents for protection and care. Children do not judge their dads by their intentions; they judge their dads by their actions (McDowell, 1996).
When children are certain of their parents’ commitment to one another, it gives them the confidence and sense of security to venture out and explore the world, holding on to the values they have observed in their parents.
As a counsellor, I have met clients struggling with issues such as a lack of confidence or sense of security.
For example, a mother brought her daughter for counselling because she had difficulty controlling the teenage girl. In her early adolescence, the girl refused to follow through with the rules that her mum had set. What made it tougher was the fact that her dad had to travel frequently. As such, by the time we met for counselling, the mum was totally exasperated.
However, when the dad worked out his schedule so that he could be home more often to attend to the needs of his wife and children, the teenage girl was delighted. In addition, her dad began to make it a point to regularly stay in touch with the family online even when he’s overseas. As a result, the mum became less exasperated and was in a better position to connect with her teenage daughter.
Lastly, the teenage girl was also happy that she got to keep in touch with her dad whom she had thought was dumping the family for another woman.
Strong Families Pull Through Storms Together, with Room for Individuality
A strong family will still encounter and can be affected by issues that crop up in their life transitions. However, a strong family is one where members exhibit solid commitment to one another; where they demonstrate a lot of appreciation for each other; where they spend adequate quality time together; where communication is vital and they stay in touch with one another’s lives throughout.
A strong family is also one that exercises flexibility in coping with stresses in life. These families have high commitment to their spiritual beliefs and are very clear about the pertinent values that the family upholds. Inherent in these families is a structure that provides members familiarity with how their family functions.
A family came in for counselling because their 13-year-old son had been caught peeping at a neighbour who was bathing. The parents were visibly upset, but they took the time to listen to the young man’s explanation. Nonetheless, the mum was in tears and the dad was concerned about her fears of their son’s situation. As such, he assured her that he would take time to talk to their son about issues concerning one’s sexuality.
As a result of the incident, the dad decided to take a lower paying job to allow him to spend more time with his son. Instead of shaming his son as many families would have done in an attempt to discourage such behaviour, the dad took time to talk to, and share with his son about sexuality issues he was concerned about when he himself was a teenager. And, though worried, the mum allowed the dad to take care of their son in this matter.
Dads Demonstrate Strength, Even in Difficult Circumstances
As said, courage in the face of difficulties is a demonstration of strength. That holds true even in the unfortunate circumstance of separation or divorce.
When vows are broken and the marriage no longer works, it is not the end of the road for dads. Rather, it is the beginning of an opportunity for him to demonstrate the courage to face these adjustments and overcome the challenges of living separate lives, by continuing to invest in the lives of his children.
While a dad who has undergone divorce may no longer be a husband to the mother of his children, he is still very much a dad to the very children he bore.
At times, guilt and shame may mar the hearts of dads who feel they have failed their children. But, fact is, it would be their absence that robs the children the joy of experiencing the love of a dad. For example, the children may be left wondering if they had done something wrong in their relationship with their dad in order for him to abandon them.
Therefore a dad dealing with a divorce must do whatever he can to maintain contact with his children and communicate to them that they are not to blame for their parents’ decision to no longer be together.
Divorce is never easy for anyone. But a courageous dad’s determination to stay connected with his children through such tough times, and to strive to co-parent as amicably as possible with his ex-wife will help bring stability and predictability once again to his children’s lives and help to keep their relationships from going too far off course.
My Commitment to My Family
I am a father of three children: two lovely girls and one fine young boy.
On my birthday, I brought two of my children out. I had breakfast with one and lunch with another. I almost had tea with my eldest child. It would have been perfect if I managed to do so, but I had fallen to slumber after lunch.
I spent about two hours with each of them over a meal of their liking, and I allowed them to pick up stuff from the shops. One chose books and magazines, another chose puzzle books while the third had a little red car because he would prefer to have one car than to wait to buy two at a discounted price.
As a family, we caught a bus to a nearby shopping mall for a simple meal at a restaurant which my son had coined the “Frog Restaurant”. When we reached home, we had a small Cookies and Cream Cake to round up a day well spent on the start of another year of my life.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted, but with a great sense of satisfaction and of being loved – something that money cannot buy. My joys of fatherhood were found in the little things that day – when my daughter squeezed my arm and gave me a lovely smile expressing boundless joy; when my son and I took a photo of our outing together and he beamed with a big smile as he bought the little red car; and when the children offered me gifts wrapped in layers of paper and they giggled as I realised there was another layer to unwrap.
That which brought me great joy was the love behind the key chains and the pens they bought with their precious pocket money, and their big smiles when they saw me receiving their gifts with great joy.
Those are my rewards of fatherhood; an intimate relationship with my children.
I am leaving them a legacy, that they know of one who cares for them greatly; one who loves them not just silently, but with actions and words; who affirms their very being; who will stand by them; who believes in them; who will laugh when they laugh; who will cry when they cry; who will provide the courage where strength has been exhausted; who tries to make time for them so that they can have a treasure trove of memories of time with a father who, in every sense of the word, loves them.
My commitment to them is the care I take regarding the time I spend with them. I write down in my diary to remind myself of the need to spend time with my children. I make it a point to do that intentionally. While deadlines are pressing, I remind myself that there will always be other deadlines in my life, but moments lost from the perspective of a child could be a disappointment that leaves a mark in their minds for the rest of their lives.
The most important deadline is my children’s swift development. If I do not treasure them now, I will not have anyone whom I can relate to when all my deadlines are done with. By then, they will be too busy with their deadlines to bother with my desire to spend time with them.
They grow, by leaps and bounds, from one infant in my arms to three lovely children running about the house. I am already missing the infant in my arms. I might not be there yet in terms of the amount of time I wish I have with them and there are many things to work on. Yet, in the end, I realise it is my total presence with them in every way that would count.
It is now or it might soon become too late.
McDowell, J. (1996). The Father Connection. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
About the Author: Tony Ong, 42, is married to Angela Ng. They have three children, Esther (9), Elizabeth (7) and Joshua Elliot (5). Together, they like to eat chicken rice and visit pet shops at Holland Village on Saturdays, await for discounted pastries at 8.30 pm at a pastry shop, and end the trip with a little grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket before catching the public transport home. Tony is a Senior Counsellor with Fei Yue Family Service Centre (www.fycs.org). He holds a Masters degree in Social Science (Counselling) and has been working with, and serving families, couples, youths and individuals for the past 18 years in family service centres. In addition, Tony conducts training and provides clinical supervision for personnel in various social service organisations.
First published on 15-06-2011.