Christmas: A Father’s Role and a Father’s Love

Video by little red ants

As I reflect on this past year, the one dominant theme in my personal development has been to focus on my role as a father. Like most people, I became a father without going through a degree course. So fatherhood was like housemanship, it was on-the-job training from day one.

At the beginning of this year, my friend Cactuskit, who is a “course addict”, insisted that I join him for a parenting course. (Cactuskit attends a course for everything. I heard lately he is doing ballroom dancing). I thought I was already doing okay as a dad, but you know, if you ask any guy if he is a good driver, the majority will say they are. So if you are part of the majority then you are, by definition, average. Or, to put it in another way, fatherhood is like Microsoft Windows. You sort of think you know how to use it, but when someone shows you some of the other features, you begin to realise that there really is a lot more to it.

The course did me a lot of good and got me to re-focus my efforts on being a better father. Being men, we are by nature very goal orientated. I think for most of us, the focus on our careers take top priority. Most men justify it, not unreasonably, by saying that a good career is of paramount importance since we are bringing home the bacon. And the more bacon we bring home, the happier the family will be. But sometimes the problem is that the fridge is already full of bacon but what the family needs is the father to sit down to enjoy it with them.

The reason I am bringing this up is that I have lately come across some families which are not doing very well. As a doctor, I often have to provide counsel for patients who are undergoing divorce or are having problems with their marriages. I feel very sorry for the children, (some of whom I have seen as babies) when the family breaks up, because it is the kids who suffer the most as they have to choose between following dad or mum.

A father’s role is not to be taken lightly. When one decides to become a father, that decision comes with a commitment to be responsible for the lives that we are bringing into this world. A child’s world revolves around their parents and it is heart wrenching to see that kids nowadays have the word “divorce” in their vocabulary even at an early age. This is a sad reflection of what our society has become. Every child has a need for both a father and a mother and there is an innate fear that they would lose one or both.

So the first and most important role of the father is to keep the family together. And the very first step in being a good father is to be a good husband. I don’t know if you realise it, but the love of a boyfriend and the love of a husband is very different. When you are a boyfriend, you get to choose which girl to love because she is highly loveable. Once you say “I do” and “Till death do us part”, than it changes from a boyfriend’s love to a husband’s love. A husband’s love is a commitment to love in spite of the unlovely bits rather than a choice to love the lovely bits. (I am very blessed that Rockett girl only has a very small, miniscule, nanoscopic number of unlovely bits — {Shhh… she reads this blog too})

In my practice I get to see quite a few Indian couples who have met each other through matchmaking. The divorce rate in India is much lower than in Singapore and I think it is because with the matchmaking process, there is no transition from boyfriend love to husband love. You basically go straight to husband love which is a commitment to a person for life. I am very encouraged whenever I see the Indian couples’ devotion for each other. The husband-wife bond is often much closer than what I see in our local population.

I know this is not easy for some couples who are currently having problems, and there are no quick and easy solutions. But I think we can learn something from the couple from Taiwan who have been married for 85 years and were recently listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as being the world’s longest married couple. When asked what is the secret of their success, the husband said:

“We are still very much in love and always will be. As to the secret of a long marriage, avoid arguments like the plague and remember the golden rule – she’s always right.”

His philosophy is very much in line with something I picked up from Richard Carlson’s book, “Don’t Sweat over Small Stuff“. In it is this phrase which I find particularly helpful whenever Rockett Girl and I have our tiffs. “It is better to be happy than to be right” (paraphrased). Yes, at the end of the day, I would rather be happy and just let the wife have her way than to insist on being right and spoil my day.

The Christmas season is a time for reflection and reconciliation. At the core of Christmas is the gift of love and an offer of reconciliation which is why the popular Christmas carol goes:

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”

Christmas is about God offering the gift of his son as a gesture of reconciliation. Apart from the gifts that we give to one another, can I encourage fathers to reflect on the best gift that you can give to your kids, and that is to gift of a family. The child needs more than a nice big present, they need both a father and a mother, and they need to be secure in the fact that their parents love each other.

To offer reconciliation, God had to make the ultimate sacrifice by giving us the gift of his Son. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Love often means giving up on things that are important to ourselves in order to give to someone else.

Is there something that you have to give up today for the sake of your kids?

Have a blessed Christmas everyone!

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