How My Parents, Brother, Wife And NS Prepared Me For Fatherhood – Twice
As of February, I’ve been upgraded to being a parent of two.
Yup. Reset button clicked. Here I go again with the frustration (of not understanding the needs of an infant lacking communication skills); the lack of sleep; the crazy amount of laundry and cleaning (or rather, clean up); and the rambunctious cries of a child that cannot be soothed.
But hey, there are the priceless positives, too: the random smiles; the warm stares that melt your heart – things only a new-born possesses that make you forget about the aforementioned frustrations.
Even so, there is a delicate balance within the household to maintain, and to ensure that my elder 7-year-old boy is accorded a sufficient amount of not only my time, but my wife’s as well.
How do I do it?
Think: Liam Neeson, as he sternly warned the kidnapper in “Taken”: “I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills that I have acquired over a very long career.”
We're same same, but different: Both have no money, but each possesses a particular set of skills acquired over a span of time. Just that in my case, the skills are those acquired from my parents, my elder brother, my time in NS, and last, but certainly not least, my wife.
Life skills from mum and dad: 1) Be responsible and 2) display a need to care
Born in a generation sandwiched between Gen X and Millennials, I grew up in the 80s, when a typical middle-class mother would be a stay-home housewife, and a father brought home the dough. My mum always made sure I was fed and had enough to eat. She would spend time with me going through my homework together, and playing fun word puzzles or number games to exercise my brain.
My dad also made sure we were fed, and never hungry. After returning home from work, he would spend whatever little time he had to take us cycling around the block, and also ask us about school during dinner. As a figure of authority, he would discipline us when needed, and teach us the lessons we needed to learn from our mistakes.
Life skill from my brother: 3) Be a positive influence
When we were young, my elder brother would always watch out for me and protect me. Our parents would often remind me of the times when we were at the playground, and he would make sure I didn't fall or get knocked over by the older (and bigger) kids.
As we grew older, we drifted apart - as rebellious teenage siblings often do - but even so, he was a large influence in my life. Through the door of his locked room, I could always hear the music of The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, or The Stone Roses blasting away. It opened my mind to the world of art in the form of music and film, which I still love deeply today.
Life skill from National Service: 4) Optimise positive thinking
National Service was a trying but, ultimately, fulfilling time for me. Before NS, I was a youth with no direction. All I did was follow orders, and move in the direction people asked me to. However, before enlistment, I remember telling myself, “I can choose to be invisible and a nobody, or, I can do my best and aim to be the best.”
At the time, I was also drawn to the money. Being an officer meant having a higher allowance. I worked hard and actually got myself into OCS where I met plenty of amazing friends who went through thick and thin with me. On top of that, I had plenty of time during my posting to think about my future and what I wanted to do with my life. It made me decide to pursue my love for movies and venture into film-making.
Life skill from my wife: 5) Be patient
The greatest thing my wife taught me is patience. People always say, “Happy wife, happy life”. They are not wrong. She has taught me to learn to agree with her when she says the blue pen is red, just to make her happy. Jokes aside, I see how she interacts with my son and teaches him with much forbearance, especially when he annoys her. How? By keeping calm and using her words and logic to make him understand things. Ohm.
Each of the five skills I’ve picked up throughout my life complement each other and have moulded me into the man and, more importantly, father I am today. Being a responsible parent means making sure my kids learn the correct ways of society (not being a nuisance by spitting in public, or talking on the phone in the cinema, for example) and be a part of it.
By showering them with care (without overprotecting them), they will eventually realise the need to care for someone else other than themselves. And because children learn the most from family members, this kind of paternal influence is crucial.
These key skills were in place and proved their worth with my first kid. And now, as i restart the journey with Number 2, I've activated them once again.
But truly, patience is the most important skill to acquire for any (new) parent. It helps keep you sane and know that any trying moment will eventually end with time – just like this article