|The writer and his wife Sharon Lee with their lovely little Hailey.
By WELLINGTON HON CHI MUN
Twenty-one months ago, I was in the labour room anxiously awaiting the arrival of my daughter. Amid all the yelling and screaming, I started wondering what she would look like, and what kind of father I would be. A good half hour later, I was cradling little Hailey in my arms, and thus began my roller coaster of a journey called fatherhood.
By the time Hailey was a week old, we had already been to the emergency room seven times. We rushed her over to the ER when she wouldn’t stop crying, when she wouldn’t sleep or when we just felt something was not right about her.
We were not sure if we were taking her temperature correctly, so we got five different thermometers. Of course, my mum, who brought up three kids of her own and seven others she babysat, was there to offer advice. Her words were ignored since she did not go to medical school nor was she a trained paediatrician.
But heck, was she right every time and did we get an earful from her!
My wife and I would rush home from work every day just to see this little person perform her array of tricks – she laughed, cried, cooed, ate and, of course, pooed. We never tired of it. Her first roll was recorded on six different cameras and from various angles. Not to mention the several external hard disks containing precious videos of Hailey when she could first sit up and crawl.
Then came the most anticipated part: Her first step. Of course, we flooded our Facebook page with videos of her first steps until friends threatened to “unfriend” us.
With the discovery of mobility, Hailey also began her path of destruction. My Sony PS3 unit, which had served me faithfully for the past five years, became the first casualty. She would press the power button repeatedly just to see the power light blink, and prove the existence of gravity with the controller. By the time we decided to move the PS3 to a safer location, it was already too late.
Then came my iPad. We both loved the device; I used it for web-browsing while she, to step on. We were sharing a lot of quality time watching Sesame Street videos together on the iPad until Hailey decided to use her feet to operate the touch screen. Despite several valiant rescue attempts, the iPad finally gave in to the constant stomping and dropping.
My joy of parenthood was marred only by the one time when a woman friend “consoled” me for having a baby girl. My initial incredulity turned to pity as I wondered if her parents were disappointed at having her instead of a son.
The trick is to just nod, end the conversation there and then, and steer clear of these male heir-worshipping fanatics. I need not prove to them how I love my little girl – a daddy’s girl who will be my whole world. And hopefully, I will be the centre of hers.
Fatherhood sure has changed me, my lifestyle, my mealtimes, my internal clock, my vocabulary (fewer swear words and more medical terms involving babies courtesy of Wikipedia) and even the way I dress (no more lounging around at home in my underwear).
Is it tough being a father? Let’s see. I did not mind having to down gallons of coffee just so I could stay awake and take her temperature every three hours when she was running a fever. I did not mind those late-night drives to the ER in my pyjamas when she was not feeling well. I did not mind having to grovel and beg shops with their shutter halfway down to let me get some formula milk because we had run out of stock at night.
No, it isn’t tough at all. It’s part and parcel of fatherhood, the only job in which the rewards greatly outweigh the toil.
With new-age dads getting more hands-on and involved in parenting these days, The Star's Fathers Figure column provides a platform for them to talk about their experiences – fulfilling, amusing, inspiring, or taxing. Star2 welcomes contributions from fathers of any age and every stripe – rich dad, poor dad, single father, fun dad, tiger dad. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header “Fathers Figure,” preferably between 600 and 800 words, with a photo attached. Published contributions will be paid. So please include your full name, IC number, address and contact number.