Dear Dads

Who do you think of when you hear the word ‘dad’? Your father, an uncle, or someone else? Father figures come in all shapes and sizes, so this Father’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the different dads out there.

“I used to be a PE teacher, so active play is very close to my heart. It correlates to academic excellence, social confidence, and overall well-being. Having observed the differences in kids who are active and those who aren’t, I decided my children need to be physically active and play as much as they can.

A lot of learning happens in play, from social etiquette to hand-eye co-ordination. The best part of this learning is that it’s all informal — most of the time the kids don’t even know they are learning! I find that kids learn best when it’s fun, so I often highlight lessons like sharing, caring for others, resilience, and determination during play. I sometimes tweak their playing towards a certain value or skill I’m trying to teach them for that day, and do a recap in the car while on the way back to reinforce the message."

"Having said that, it’s all about balance as well. Too much play is not good too, lah! But these days, many parents choose to emphasise learning with books, often at the expense of play. I think play and studying must go hand in hand."

Fandy and his family at a bicycle race, Holycrit, which his sons competed in. Image c/o Fandy.

Aedan and Matin cycling along Punggol Red Bridge on a day out with their dad. Image c/o Fandy.

“There are so many good vibes when we’re out, but skateboarding [with my kids] has never failed to impress. I get to see my kids fall, get up, try again, and finally achieve something. That feeling is just wonderful x100000, man.

Also, my kids get to see me fall! I think I have gained their respect from that. We all have a good laugh when we fall while skating, which is another important lesson. It’s ok to fall; you don’t have to feel embarrassed, but my kids both agree that it’s not ok to fall and give up.”

“I picked up gardening very early on, probably around 2003, as a means to take my mind off work. I find gardening relaxing and therapeutic because I can work alone quietly, plus it also allows you to get creative because you learn how to design your own garden and create your own style. It's also very rewarding to see plants grow under your care.

I manage an eclectic garden with an extensive diversity of plants ranging from Aroids, Gingers, Bromeliads, Tillandsia, xeric trees and plants, succulents, Platycerium, Cycads and Palms, foliage plants like Begonia, Calathea, exotic trees and anything else which catches my fancy.

I don't have a favourite plant because each and every plant is special. I suppose the ones which are close to my heart are the two Costus (a genus of Ginger), which I hybridised and registered with Heliconia Society International, a US-based non-profit corporation."

One of the Costus that Russel hybridised and registered, named Julie's Kiss. Image c/o Russel.

Russel and his Pomeranian, Peidan, enjoying some time in his garden. Image c/o Russel. 

"I love hybridising plants, but it requires great patience, luck, and timing to get them to pollinate, bear fruit, and produce viable seed. It takes even more patience and time to watch them germinate and nurture them from seedlings to mature plants. To be honest, I love growing plants from seeds and also propagating plants from stem and leaf cuttings. There is something so fulfilling about the whole process. I think hybridising and growing plants from seeds really qualifies one to become a Plant Dad.

The dogs regard the garden as their toilet, but I think they do appreciate the space, especially the two little ones who were ex-breeding dogs and spent a chunk of their lives in a tiny cage. Whenever I see them exploring the garden (probably looking for that perfect spot to pee), I feel heartened because this is now their 'kingdom', even if it's just a toilet to them."

“Tyler has been nothing by joy in our lives. Like new parents, we didn’t know what it was going to be like, and how we would be as parents, but everything fell into place quickly and we just couldn’t get enough of it.

Tyler was the goal of our surrogacy journey in Canada. He was the outcome of 3 years of planning and emotional rollercoaster ride. As soon as Tyler took his first breath independently after birth, we knew our lives had changed for the better, and we would do anything to keep him alive and well.

We realised how much has changed when he turned one. Our priorities have shifted in a major way, and so have our waistlines! It’s unfortunate that there were still nation-wide restrictions in place during Tyler’s birthday, so we didn’t get to give him a big party."

Tyler enjoying the sun at Gardens by the Bay with his dads. Image c/o Andre and Cameron.

Andre and Cameron try to expose Tyler to many different activities, such as swimming! Image c/o Andre and Cameron.

"We love watching Tyler grow. His daily changes are fun to discover, and it is just a never-ending series of ‘Tyler’s Firsts’ that we always try to capture and document in pictures and videos. Our iPhone camera roll has gone from food and travel to all things Tyler!

When Tyler was a wee baby, we would often go up to him and run our fingers up and down his chest and sides and legs, saying, ‘Tickle! Tickle! Tickle! Tickle!’ quickly and continuously. Somehow, he wanted that to be his first word! When he was ready to test out his voice box, he started saying ‘Geh-goo! Geh-goo! Geh-goo! Geh-goo!’ and didn’t slow down for months! It didn’t help when we started saying it the way he did too, because it was just too cute. Tyler still says that once in a long while and when he does, we will start laughing and say, ‘Geh-goo! Geh-goo!’ after him. It’s too difficult to ignore!”

“Parenting is not for the faint-hearted as it carries a heavy responsibility. It doesn't get any easier. While what we do as parents evolves with the age of our kids and their growing needs, our primal motivation as parents to love, provide and protect them will always keep us on our toes regardless of how old our kids are.

I actually struggled with publicly sharing our parenting journey with our son with special needs. In fact, it was my wife who started sharing on her Instagram, where she got tremendous support."

"On social media, we typically portray only the ‘bright and Insta-worthy stories. That’s not wrong, but it's important to be authentic and share the raw, un-filtered side of parenting."

"I think that when parents first discover their child has special needs (SN), we go through a process of guilt, reconciliation, and acceptance. On social media, we typically portray only the ‘bright and Insta-worthy’ stories. That’s not wrong, but it's important to be authentic and share the raw, un-filtered side of parenting. Re-alignment of expectations, reconnection with the community, and reconciliation are all important attributes of sustaining relationships. It's important that we share these authentic human stories so that we can spur each other on in our journey as parents and spouses. Only by being vulnerable ourselves can we begin to feel how it is like for our SN kids."

David and his family on a cruise trip last year. The father of two enjoys swimming with his children. Image c/o David.

David teaching his son, Buddy, how to ride a bicycle. Image c/o David.

"There are so many memorable trips I’ve had with my children, both overseas and local! We recently took a trip to Kampung Buangkok, Singapore's last kampung. Growing up, a large part of my life was spent in a kampung. I felt deeply satisfied that I was able to bring my kids 'back in time' and have that shared moment. Overseas, we’ve walked the ancient UNESCO sites of Angkor Wat, seen the Northern Lights in Finland in frigid winter, and snorkelled in the pristine waters of the Maldives. These moments are not only precious memories, but they showed my wife and I how far more resilient our kids are than we expect from them. We should always give them experiences, and not excuses, in order to expand their horizons and perspectives.”