“Your life will change, bro.” I recall this was my friend's first reaction when I told him that my wife and I were expecting our first child. My first thought was, yeah, I have to be ready for sleepless nights during night feeds, learn to diaper change our baby, no more movie night, travelling now needs proper planning and not just pack and go, etc. That was three years ago.
Looking back I realise that I thought having a baby was all about sacrifices a father has to make as we all know it is not easy to bring up a child. Each year, in the month of June, more and more articles are being published in the newspapers paying tribute to fathers; about model fathers, the sacrifices a father goes through, stories about being a single dad and the new concept of a house husband and how far we fathers have come along as compared to those old days where a father would bring home the food and was conservative and a disciplinarian.
I now know that being a father is more than the sacrifices we make. My two wonderful kids taught me more than what I could have learnt in school, university and then postgraduate studies. They taught me about life.
My daughter, who was born prematurely at 26 weeks barely 920g, taught me about not giving up and to continue fighting no matter what. Life is not always a bed of roses, sometimes the storm will hit you but you persevere, you fight your way through and have faith and believe in yourself.
She is now a 22-month-old beautiful girl who battles with her brother for her favourite toy or tries to “negotiate” with me on her sleeping time. When life is tough and I think God has closed the door, I remember the times my daughter was fighting for her life in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and it pulls me back to reality to stop looking at the closed door.
I then realise there are other doors opening up and our mind is a powerful thing. Now, when life throws a challenge at me, I begin to learn to pull myself up and say “so, what’s next” and I move on. Easier said than done? Yes, it sounds easy on paper but in reality it’s quite tough but I am glad I am learning and getting better each day.
When I sometimes “complain” that I am missing out on nature trips with my friends, I realise life as a toddler is a happy one because they lead a simple life. Even though we do not provide our kids with expensive toys such as those they see in their cousins’ house, they are just happy creating their own toys.
When my son sees an expensive toy drum his cousin is happily playing with, he converts our pots and pans into a drum set. When he sees an expensive remote toy train in the store, he comes home and starts lining up all his old toy cars, toy trucks and turns all the chairs in our living room upside down and both our kids will be happily pretending that they are on an adventure in Thomas & Friends.
Even though I am missing out on nature activities, I am now contented going for walks in the nearby park, smelling the flowers or explaining to my kids why bees loves flowers or going around the morning market explaining the colours and smells of our fruits and vegetables.
At work, when it seems we cannot meet a certain quality or the deadline, I look upon my kids’ determination to learn a new skill. When learning to walk, how many times did they stumble and fall? Rather than give up, they would just pull themselves up, give you a sheepish smile and then start walking again. This happened for 10 or 20 times or even more until they finally let go of my hand and took that first glorious step.
How often as adults do we complain about the small stuff daily? “Why is the traffic bad today? Why can’t people learn to drive properly? Why did the waiter take the wrong order? Why can’t my wife be like me?” And the list can goes on and on.
Looking at my kids makes me realise that they have their differences as well. They fight and they pull or scratch and even cry while trying to get things their way but eventually they settle their differences and then start playing together again.
It dawns on me that we go about our life each day sweating over the small stuff which we will forget in a day or two. I am now learning to stop complaining and start living. If I know the traffic is going to be bad on a Monday, I will leave for the office earlier. If the waiter has taken the wrong order, I will be forgiving and remind him or her to be careful next time. So what if I get nasi lemak instead of my favourite nasi bojari? Both are rice anyway. It won’t hurt having nasi lemak for a change.
Watching my kids with their simple activities now becomes the highlight of my day. They never fail to amaze me and by just taking a step back at the end of the day from the stressful and complicated world, I now look forward to another new thing or two my kids are teaching me … about how to live!
A Happy Father