Becoming The Best Dad I Can Be

A father of two, Mathew Sum shares how he navigates the path of growing into a parent he wants to be.

By Familes For Life        30 December 2022

Parenting is a peculiar journey.

Until we become a parent, we are just not able to adequately comprehend the challenges of parenting, or feel the long-standing stir of emotions that comes with it.

Furthermore, when the going gets tough, we may instinctively find ourselves faced with the tendency to follow in the footsteps of the first parents we knew – our very own.

Parenting reveals the blend of experiences that we have gone through our entire lives, and unfortunately, in some of our cases, we inevitably allow history to repeat itself in some ways.

Growing up, my relationship with my parents was not exactly very close, a result of their Asian parenting style, which meant there was a certain distance kept between us to create a sense of authority.

My parents rarely embraced me with a hug, nor spoke words of affirmation or inspiration to me. Our communication consisted mostly of top-down instructions, and I was often left on my own to play with my toys or watch cartoons on television.

Looking back, I recognise that my parents did the best they knew how, and I don’t blame them at all. Perhaps, because of this “distant” relationship with my parents, I make the intentional effort to hug, affirm, and spend quality (and quantity) time with my children.

The “best” I know how, is to be part of their growing up journey, through their ups and downs. My two boys spend a lot of time with me, and I do my best to prioritise my time between work and family.

That is the positive side of my fathering journey.

There have been, on the other hand, not-so-positive aspects of my childhood upbringing that have surfaced in me from time to time, especially when my children misbehave.

My parents were strict with me in my younger years. I was not an easy child, and I often faced scolding and disciplining with the cane. Eventually, I spent the bulk of my teenage years as an angry and aggressive teenager, often getting into arguments and fights in school – as I also did at home.

I was not a good communicator of my thoughts and feelings back then, and neither were my parents. So, there are times I still feel that way, as a father, when trying to reason with my sons.

Whenever I go through a rough patch like this in the parenting journey, I wonder if there are truly any “successful” parents out there, who struggle significantly less than the average parent like myself.

But I remind myself then that it really is not easy to navigate the inner world of a growing child, especially with the texting, social media, online gaming and evolving ideologies they are now growing up with.

All I can do is my best to teach what is good and right to my two children, hoping and praying that our earlier years of father-son bonding will pay off, somehow.

After all, I did mature in my later teenage years, channeling my pent-up energy towards my academics, friendships and sports. I “wised up”, as most of us did.

Perhaps, as parents, we must simply surrender to the reality that all children need to “live through” their own journeys to discover who they are – as we do too.

We can try hard to learn from the lessons of our parents’ parenting, but we must give ourselves space and time to navigate this path of growing into the parents that we are.

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You don’t need to be alone in your parenting journey. Join other new parents in sharing your experiences to learn how to raise happy and healthy children together. Find out more about WiseJourneys here.

This article was first published by Families for Life.

Photo taken in collaboration with Deborah Quek.