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PHOTO: Unsplash/Ante Hamersmit

What My Dad Taught Me About Being A Man

The older you get, the more you realise that your parents are human, after all. They too have their flaws, insecurities and mistakes. There is no one-stop manual for parenting. Like everything else in life, it is always a learning process.

(From left) Dad, my two younger brothers and me.PHOTO: Farhan Shafie

Comforter, protector, teacher

For my dad, it was made worse by the fact that he was left to raise three young boys on his own after my mum passed away from breast cancer. I was only 10 at the time while my two younger brothers were 7 and 5, respectively. He was all I knew from that point on - my source of comfort, protector, teacher and giver of wisdom.

PHOTO: Farhan Shafie

Looking back now in my late 20s, I can only imagine the fear and loneliness my father must have felt at the time. Working multiple jobs while trying to care for 3 rambunctious, wild boys with little support was no easy feat. Anyone else in that predicament might have easily been overwhelmed and thrown in the towel. 

But not my dad.

He never once betrayed any hint of emotion or cracked under pressure. Yes, we struggled financially at times but there was always food on the table, a roof above our heads, and school to keep us occupied. Dad accepted the situation he was in and took it as a challenge upon himself to step up - and that he did. He taught me the value of courage in the face of adversity, that responsibility is part and parcel of being a man, and you're only as good as your word.

Dad remarried 14 years after my late mum's passing.PHOTO: Farhan Shafie

Actions speak louder than words

Growing up like any teen, I went through my rebellious phase, clashing with Dad on many issues. I was hard-headed and stubborn. He was firm and scathing at times. And one thing we had in common is we were never truly good at expressing our emotions.

"I love you" is not a phrase that is usually uttered around the household. But he showed it: everytime he cooked for us even after a long day at work or when he gave us pocket money even though I knew he had barely enough left for himself. That's the second thing I learnt from my dad; that actions speak louder than words and that sacrifice comes hand in hand with love.

Dad eventually remarried when I became an adult, a good 14 years after my late mum's passing. He always shrugged anytime someone asked him why it took so long. "I wanted to make sure my kids are all grown up and can take care of themselves," he would simply say. Again, a man true to his word.

Dad has done good.PHOTO: Farhan Shafie

Like father, like son

Most of my close friends always joked that I am the spitting image of my dad. I used to be so embarrassed about the comparison. Not saying that my dad wasn't good looking or anything, but I knew, deep inside, I could never live up to the measure of him as a man. It is something that I still strive to be to this day.

However, I am truly my father's son in a lot of ways, I must admit. We are both too nice sometimes, to the point that we have been taken advantage of. And we're both mediators by nature. We'd much rather resolve a fight than instigate one. And that is the last lesson that Dad imparted upon me. It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

On this Father's Day, it is a poignant reminder to show some love and appreciation for your old man. And if you're like me and too paiseh to say "I love you", take it from my experience: doing chores and housework on your own initiative always makes their day.

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