Yesterday, Sean turned 21. Being our first born, his birthday also marks our anniversary as parents. I could still recall vividly, the moment when he first came into our world, and continue to experience the profound transformation since his arrival.
I was no longer the same man. I was not just a son, a brother, and a husband. I became a father. And that meant a lot to me. My sense of identity and purpose totally shifted. A whole new world opened up for me – the ‘Wild and Wonderful World of Parenthood.’ Parenting advice and tips were pouring in generously from family, friends, colleagues, and at times, even strangers. One of the best advice I got from a client which I frequently share with new fathers is:
“When your child arrives, make sure you pay attention to your wife. The baby will get lots of attention from others.”
Fast forward 21 years. Looking at how Sean and Dylan had turned out, I think I did alright on being a dad, albeit starting out pretty clueless. Of course, much of the credit goes to my wife, who shouldered most of the parenting responsibilities, whilst I enjoyed most of the privileges – usually as their playmates.
We have both learnt a lot about parenting, marriage, and life over the last two decades. Parenting is probably the best personal development programme we have unknowingly signed up for. We had to continuously learn, develop, and evolve as our children grew from boys to men.
When Sean was four, I had a dream of writing a book to capture some nuggets of life wisdom so that we could pass them down to our children. As with many of my failed or incomplete projects, that book idea was long abandoned … until last week, when my wife asked, “What should we give Sean for his 21st birthday?”
After a few late nights, we managed to pull together 30 ideas which culminated into a little booklet titled: What we wish we knew when we were 21.
At last, a dream came true. But that was not all.
Over dinner, Sean shared about an impromptu speech he had delivered in class this week. He was amazed by how well it was received by his tutor and classmates. The task was to speak about a role model who had inspired him. And he chose to speak about his dad. He shared the story of how I transitioned from management consulting to starting a café and becoming a coach, as well as how he learnt about unconditional love through the way I cared for my dad. The audience were blown away by his heartfelt sharing.
Needless to say, I was blown away too. Super happy, and extremely touched. I wasn’t expecting that. But I did secretly harbour a wish that someday, my children would consider me their role model.
OK, it’s just a speech assignment in class. But that’s enough to have me feeling as if I’ve won an award for being the ‘Best Dad of the Year.’
Another dream came true.